B-b-b-b-but I thought the Democrats’ plan was all about enhancing “choices” and “options”…
“Democrats and President Obama have denied that the creation of a new government-run health care plan would be a Trojan Horse for single-payer health care, but a new report by the Lewin Group (comissioned by the Heritage Foundation) finds that the House Democrats’ health care bill would shift more 83.4 million Americans from private health care coverage to the government plan. To put that in perspective, that would mean that nearly half (48.4 percent) would lose their private health coverage.”
Related: Read Cliff Asness on health care mythology.
The government does not co-exist or compete fairly with private enterprise. It does not play well with others. The regulator cannot be a competitor at the same time. It cannot compete fairly while it owns the armed forces and courts. Finally, it cannot be a fair competitor if when the “public option” screws up (can’t pay its bills), the government implicitly or explicitly guarantees its debts. We have seen what happens in that case and don’t need a re-run.
The first thing the government does is underprice the private system. You can easily be forgiven for thinking this is a good thing. Why not, cheaper is better right? Wrong. They will underprice private enterprise by charging less to the purchaser of health insurance, not by actually creating it cheaper. Who makes up the difference? Well, you and your family do if you pay taxes, or your kids will pay taxes, or their kids will pay taxes. The government can always underprice competition, not through the old fashioned way of doing it better, they never do that, but by robbing Peter to pay for Paul. They are taking money from your left pocket and giving you a small portion of it back in your right pocket. They do it every day before breakfast, and take a victory lap for the small portion they return.
Second, the government ultimately always cheats when it’s involved in “honest” competition. Try mailing a first class letter through Fed-Ex, or placing an off-track bet with a bookie, or playing a lottery through a private company. Uh, you can’t, so please stop trying. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Once the government discovers it cannot win, it changes the rules. You see, the government has the power to legislate, steal, imprison, and kill. Those are advantages most private firms do not have, save Google, and you didn’t hear that from me (we all know the Google guy with one eye-brow would crush your larynx for creating a competing search engine).
I have friends who say that I can’t compare doctors to postal workers or truck drivers or bookies as doctors are tireless altruists (pretty damn arrogant no?). I respect the skills of doctors, but they are the kids in college who wanted good jobs with prestige and money, and worked damn hard to attain them, but barely a one was more altruistic than the average truck driver (ever have a doctor drive you from Cleveland to Spokane for nothing but your participation in a duet?) And anyway, those who want socialism want to enslave these altruists while I want to free them, so I am not sure I need to argue this point.
Perhaps the best example of the destructive “public option” is our nation’s schools. Here we clearly have a government provided “public option” competing with (and in fact dominating in size) private schooling. But, is it fair? Does it work well? Not by a long-shot. To send your kids to private school (i.e., a school that competes with the government) you need to first pay your taxes. Absent vouchers or tax credits, the bête noirs of the “socialism in education” set, if you eschew the “public option” you have to pay for education twice. Double payment is not only unfair, but the quality of the product without competition is inhuman and a catastrophe to a generation of children the Left weeps tears over, but actively works to destroy (after all, the Left needs future customers). That the schools provided by the government pale next to the private options, which themselves pale next to what we would have with a full private system (even if publicly funded) is beyond sad, but not the direct point here. The direct point is a “public option” cannot exist without cheating – in this case making you pay for it even if you don’t use it (I’m pretty sure if a private company tried that it would be called stealing).
With a “public option” things inevitably would go the horrific way of our public schools. Instead of existing to please customers (patients and students respectively) the “public option” in schools exists largely to benefit empowered stakeholders of the system (health administrators and unionized school employees respectively), who will shamelessly pretend to give a darn about sick people and children. Watch the analogy play out if we go this route in health care. It will be like looking in a funhouse mirror and seeing a doctor where you used to see a teacher. All else will be the same.