Sunday, May 03, 2009

Nelson: "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game."

At last!

A Republican who is being honest about why he opposes legislation that would give the American people the option of a public health insurance plan.

Nelson's problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a "deal breaker."
This is actually at the very centre of the Republican opposition to a public health insurance plan, and is actually a rejection of everything which the Republicans are supposed to believe in.

Anyone who remembers the 1993-94 health care fights knows that Republicans have long asserted that private insurance is more efficacious and more adored by patients than government-run programs like Medicare. To solve the health care crisis, those on the right say we must foster more price-cutting, efficiency-producing competition. "The American people know that innovation, choice, and competition work," wrote GOP Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) in an archetypal op-ed entitled "Competition Solves Health Care."

Give conservatives credit here: At minimum, this argument had a logic to it, however flawed. Sure, it is belied by data -- The Urban Institute reports that private insurers spend up to 30 percent of their revenues on administrative costs (read: salaries, paperwork, etc.) while government programs spend just 5 percent, and polls show Medicare recipients are far more satisfied with their health care than those in the private system. But, in nonetheless claiming that the private sector will always outperform the government, Republicans at least presented an ideologically coherent (if fantastically inaccurate) hypothesis.

That all changed, though, when Democrats this week began pushing to let citizens buy into a government-sponsored health plan similar to the one federal lawmakers enjoy.

The allegedly competition-loving GOP immediately stated its strong opposition on the grounds that the initiative would begin "forcing free market plans to compete with government-run programs," as congressional Republicans lamented. While Republican Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) insisted that the GOP remains "committed to common-sense solutions that promote competition," he said his party is "concerned that if the government" is permitted to compete, "it will eventually push out the private health care plans."

Until now the argument has been that the public love the private health system and would never choose a public version. Now, people like Nelson are openly admitting that the reason he opposes a public plan is because it would be "too attractive" and would "hurt the private insurance plans".

In other words, he wants to put the needs of the private insurance companies before the wishes of the American people who, he admits, would be attracted by a public plan. For, given the choice - and Republicans always claim that "choice" is at the centre of their philosophy - between private health care and a public health care system, the public would choose the public plan.

The truth is that the Republicans, the very people who reject the notion of "Big Government", know that their arguments will collapse if the American people ever get a public health care system. For, wherever countries have a national health care system, it tends to be held in great affection by the populace.

Even Thatcher, the most right wing politician the UK has seen in my lifetime, may have attempted to create an internal market within the NHS, but she never dared to abolish it. To do so, in this country, would be political suicide.

Once a country establishes free health care, the populace quickly recognise this as an inalienable right. And, any failing within this free health care system is one that they demand be fixed by government intervention rather than by scrapping the system.

This is what the Republicans most fear. A free health care system undermines their entire argument regarding self sufficiency and "small government", and Nelson''s comments are the nearest I have seen any Republican coming to openly admitting this.

They know the American people want this and they are determined not to give it to them. For it undermines their entire philosophy. That's why the party of supposed "choice" is so against the public having any choice in this matter.

Click title for source.


Jim in Raleigh said...

Just one correction for your article. Ben Nelson is a Democratic Senator from Nebraska. He is one of the "Blue Dog" conservative Democrats who often vote for business interests over people interests.

Kel said...

Thanks for that, Jim. I did make a dreadful presumption, didn't I?