Wednesday night (6/24/09) ABC News ran a special commercials marathon with frequent and brief interruptions by Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer, and others to ask President Obama about his health care reform plans. The commercials were more informative.
But a few points leaked out that did illuminate, however dimly, the President’s plans to reform our universally-acknowledged mess of a health care system. Among the more interesting was the pledge that his public health insurance plan would operate on a level playing field in competing against private insurers while presenting a better deal to America’s self-employed and uninsured. Among his points were these:
- As a nonprofit organization, the public plan will offer lower premiums because it won’t have to earn profits.
- The public plan will not be subsidized by the government, but will float on its own bottom with its own premiums and expenses.
- Any government subsidies will be for individuals—not the public plan—to help them buy insurance, whether they choose the public plan or private insurers.
- The government plan will have to abide by the same rules as the private insurers.
- The government plan will incur lower administrative costs than private plans.
- The government plan will pay “fair” provider reimbursements.
- The government plan will be offered through a government-sponsored insurance exchange alongside private insurers, none of which will be able to exclude anyone because of preexisting conditions.
- People with employer-based insurance will not be eligible to purchase insurance from the public plan.
- Government pay-or-play mandates will discourage employers from dropping their insurance plans and dumping their employees into the public plan.
As you follow the debate and Congressional markups on the contentious public plan issue, pay close attention to these points. How each is handled is critical to determine whether the public plan—assuming it becomes law—eventually succeeds as advertised, fails financially, or as many fear, becomes the camel’s nose in the tent leading to a government takeover of private health insurance.
In subsequent posts, I will provide background on these issues, as well as others equally critical to the question of a public health insurance option. Do stay tuned.