Argument: Public insurance reduces choices by destroying private insurers

Issue Report: Public health insurance option


The American Medical Association and Senate Finance Committee: “The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.”[1]

“The end of private health insurance”. Wall Street Journal (editorial). April 13, 2009: “Above every other health-care goal, Democrats this year want to institute a “public option” — an insurance program financed by taxpayers, managed by government and open to everyone, much like Medicare. This new middle-class entitlement is the most important debate in Congress this year, because it really is the last stand for anything resembling private health insurance. […] This public option will supposedly ‘compete’ with private alternatives. As President Obama likes to put it, those who are happy with the insurance they have now can keep it — and if they happen to prefer the government offering, well, gee whiz, that’s the free market at work. The reality is far different. Not only will the new program become the default coverage for the uninsured, but Democrats intend to game the system to precipitate — or if need be, coerce — an exodus to government from private insurance. Soon enough, that will be the only ‘option’ left.

[…] Proponents will say we are exaggerating, but the consequences we describe are inevitable when government bulldozes into a market. Democrats want to sell their “public option” as a modest and affordable reform that won’t affect anyone’s private insurance. It isn’t true. Republicans, especially those in the Senate who want to cut a deal on health care, should understand that a public option is the beginning of the end of private health insurance.”

June 8th letter to Barack Obama from Senator Warren Hatch and other Finance Committee members: “Furthermore, actuaries at the Lewin Group have concluded that such a plan open to all, and offering Medicare-level reimbursement rates, would result in 119.1 million Americans losing their private coverage. This would run contrary to your pledge to the American families about allowing them to keep the coverage of their choice.”