Saturday, March 7, 2009

Private is Always Better, Even if it's Not?

In the Republican response to President Obama's health care conference this week, Representative Roy Blunt said that he was "concerned that if the government steps in it will eventually push out the private health care plans millions of Americans enjoy today. This could cause your employer to simply stop offering coverage, hoping the government will pick up the slack.”

Let's think about the implications of this remark for a minute. How would a government-sponsored health insurance plan "push out" private health care plans? Presumably only if the government plan offered better and/or cheaper coverage than the private plan. If the private plan were better or cheaper, employers would have no reason to offer a government-sponsored plan instead. So what Representative Blunt is really saying is that the Republicans are opposed to government-sponsored benefits even if they are superior to what is being offered by the private sector. In other words, we should prefer market-based solutions even if they cost more and do not work as efficiently as government-sponsored solutions. This is not an argument based on logic, but rather on ideology. Also, has Congressman Blunt noticed that lots of employers are reducing or eliminating their health coverage options even without the competition of a government-sponsored plan? What are the Republicans offering for the millions of Americans without any health insurance?

If Republicans truly believe that private health insurance is superior to government-sponsored health insurance, they should have the courage of their convictions and call for the abolition of Medicare. But for all the Republican worries about the spectre of socialized medicine, you never hear them call for the abolition of the socialized system that we already have for everyone over 65. You rarely hear seniors clamoring to trade in their Medicare coverage for private insurance. It is the rest of us having to deal with the endless complications of private insurance plans who are complaining.

Photo from Sacramento Bee

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