Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Magic and the Public Option

I cannot help but feel that I am being sold a bill of goods with this “public option” thing as being a magic bullet to solve the ills that affect our health care system. I’m by no means opposed to a government-run health care plan; the government does many things very well, Medicare among them, so the “public option” doesn’t press any of my buttons on that issue.

I can’t figure out, for one thing, how it is going to get doctors, hospitals and drug companies to charge lower prices, which is absolutely necessary if we are to achieve reform’s stated goal of reducing health care costs. No, wait; that is not the goal of reform. The goal is to “slow the growth of costs,” which is sort of like a football team saying it doesn’t want to do anything but kick field goals. Sounds like the San Diego Chargers.

Negotiation might be a powerful tool but for two problems. First is that the “public option” will initially be too small to wield much in the way of negotiating power. The bigger problem is that the Obama Administration has already cut deals with hospital and pharmaceutical associations that no such negotiations will be included in reform.

The “public option” will be non-profit, which gets rid of an average of 5% of the premium costs. Not bad, but rather less than stunning. Supposedly it won’t need to advertise, but given the amount of advertising the US Postal Service does, I find that questionable. If it doesn’t advertise, how will people know what it is, what plan it offers, or even how to find it? But okay, it won’t advertise.

The "public option" is not only being touted as lower cost, but it is now being claimed that it will pay for all of the things that private insurance is refusing to pay for. That being the case, how is it going to charge lower premiums? Sen. Ron Wyden was on Countdown last night and said that if you are in an employer-provided plan and it refuses to pay for medical care you need, you should be able to drop that plan and enroll in a “public option” that will pay for the things that your employer’s plan is refusing to pay for.

How can the “public option” do that and charge lower premiums?

Insurance companies do not refuse payment for reasons having to do with evil-mindedness; for the reason that they just want you to get sicker and die for the sake of having you get sicker and die because they enjoy people dying. The reasons are economic; the more they pay out, the higher are the premiums they must charge, and the fewer policies they will sell.

So Olbermann and Senator Wyden want me to believe that the “public option” will never refuse payment, will pay all of the bills that private insurance refuses, and will charge lower premiums. I’m not an idiot, and I don’t believe that.

The “public option” is going to eschew cost control methods and maintain lower premiums. And magic ponies will keep everyone in good health.

As I’ve said before, the longer this “debate” goes on, the more it gets dumbed down. We now have boiled it down to two sides screaming meaningless catch phrases at each other; with one side yelling about “death panels” and the other about the “public option.”

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