Why I’m Against the So-Called “Public Option”

The health “reform” plan taking shape in the Democrat-controlled Congress is another case of people who played by the rules most of their lives getting screwed. It’s also why I’m protesting in front of the Federal Building in Downtown Chattanooga this Saturday at noon.

During the past year’s panic-driven race to get unread bills passed and signed to prop up the housing market, my wife and I wondered if we were among a dying breed of Americans who did not believe in overbuying and overextending ourselves into debt. Now, as we watch the healthcare cramdown, we get the same feeling – we’ve taken care of ourselves yet it looks like we’ll have to pay more, yet have fewer personal freedoms in the long run. And that’s even before rationing sets in.

The so-called “public option” is a part of health reform plans under consideration in the House and Senate that will grant the government power to compete directly against more than 1,300 insurance providers nationwide.1 The option’s stated purpose is to ensure a level playing field of “choice, competition, and stability of affordable, high quality coverage.” More than 1,300 providers and we need another one to keep the market competitive?

Which brings me to the first reason I oppose this plan: it undermines private health insurance providers. The plan bases reimbursement rates on current Medicare reimbursement levels plus 5%. Unfortunately for physicians, Medicare currently reimburses them at a rate of only 81 percent2 of average market rates, and payment levels for hospitals are even less. And how does the public option provide a “level playing field” when government is the only provider setting the rules of competition while undercutting true market costs?

The second reason for opposing the public option is that it centralizes control of the most personal aspects of our lives under the Federal government. This approach undermines a fundamental principle of federalism set forth by our nation’s founders, the diffusion of power between the states and the central government, and within their respective individual branches. Privacy will be a thing of the past. Washington bureaucrats will stand between your doctor and decisions you or your loved ones may need to make quickly to save your life. Now you can count on waiting periods of the type Canadian and British subjects have suffered through for a generation.

More importantly, this federal power grab fundamentally alters the relationship between the federal government and its citizens. With Washington in control of the most important and personal decisions you make about your health care, it can exercise an enslaving leverage over each of us that will corrupt and morally cripple our ability to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Free citizens no longer – just subjects.

A final reason for opposition is that the plan is unaffordable, especially in the midst of a severe recession. In fact, the Democrat approach throws the baby out with the bath water – while the media has focused on an estimated 48 million uninsured Americans, did you know that nearly 179 million Americans, or 79% of the total market, have healthcare coverage?3 And that portion of insured adults are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current coverage. Which means that Congress is pushing for a government takeover of the health care sector to provide a new blockbuster entitlement for little more than 20% of the market.

Unfortunately, reason and prudence appear to be in short supply in Washington.

Kinda makes my wife and I wish we had broken a few more rules in our younger days.

1 “How to Stop Socialized Health Care,” by Karl Rove, The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2009. 2 “Statement on the Tri-Committee Draft Proposal for Health Care Reform,” by Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D. Testimony before The Committee on Education and Labor, United States House of Representatives, June 23, 2009. 3 “Executive Summary: The Impact of the 2009 Access to Quality Affordable Health Care for All Act,” by Steve Parente, Ph.D. and Lisa Tomai. HSI Network, LLC, June 24, 2009.

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