Patterico's Pontifications


Why an Obamacare “Public Plan” should be an easy target

Filed under: General — Karl @ 9:01 am

[Posted by Karl]

After Obamacare ran into trouble in Congress last week, the Left grasped at isolated questions in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal and CBS/New York Times polls, purporting to show overwhelming support for a government-run insurance plan. I was not impressed by the wording of the questions, and even less impressed by the lack of follow-up questions that would have tested that support.

However, I just came across the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, which asked those sorts of questions in late April. The results are highly instructive.

The KFF poll showed that 67% percent supported creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans. Indeed, if people were told that it would give them more choices and drive down costs by competing with private insurance, support would jump another 11% — right into the range of those the aforementioned MSM polls.

However, if people heard that the public plan would be a first step toward single-payer, government-run healthcare, support dropped to 41%. And if people heard the public plan would give the government an unfair advantage over private insurance companies, support dropped to 32%.

As the healthcare debate unfolds, opponents of a public plan can unroll video after video after video demonstrating that those pushing a public plan see it as the foot in the door to single-payer, government-run healthcare.

On the second point, Pres. Obama has now publicly admitted that “there is a legitimate concern if the public plan was eating off the taxpayer trough, it would be hard for private insurers to compete.” The public will quickly come to realize that unfair competition is the entire point of a public plan.

All anyone need do to demonstrate the point is to ask what would happen if the public plan ran into financial trouble. Does anyone seriously think that after bailing out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and GM (soon to be owned by the very UAW whose legacy healthcare costs made GM’s business unprofitable), the feds would fail to shovel money into a public plan far beyond the $10 billion in seed money Sen Chuck Schumer is already trying to lift from the taxpayers’ wallets?

Moreover, Independents and Republicans can be moved by arguing that if the federal government requires all employers to provide health insurance for their employees or pay to support a public plan, employers will likely drop their coverage and shift their employees into a public plan. The Lewin Group has estimated that about 119 million people would shift from their current coverage to the public plan, which is a two-thirds reduction in the number of people with private coverage.

In sum, it’s easy to find a poll that shows mile-wide support for a public plan. It’s much harder to find one that shows support more than a couple of inches deep.


25 Responses to “Why an Obamacare “Public Plan” should be an easy target”

  1. Apparently the planned tax on healthcare benefits will exempt union workers. I am not sure if this is Constitutional. Could anyone comment on this.

    Thomas Jackson (8ffd46)

  2. “… a couple of inches deep.”

    That deep?

    GM Roper (85dcd7)

  3. That is my current understanding.

    So, once again, the Dems set up anyone who isn’t in one of their protected status groups to pay through the nose. Nice.

    Vivian Louise (eeeb3a)

  4. In sum, it’s easy to find a poll that shows mile-wide support for a public plan. It’s much harder to find one that shows support more than a couple of inches deep.

    The best summary in a sentence as I have read anywhere. Kudos on a nice post and I completely agree, the public plan is an easy target. The president must know this himself, see Keith Hennessey’s translation of POTUS rhetoric yesterday on necessity of inclusion of a public plan:

    Translation: Yes, it’s negotiable.

    But as Hennessey points out in his conclusion even if the public option is killed passage of anything resembling Kennedy-Dodd will accomplish the same goal as the public plan. Health care will become largely a function of government.

    Mary (1dc631)

  5. you people need to quit complaining and get with the program:

    this is being done for your own good and your fighting it is just ingratitude of the worst sort.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  6. Good points. We do need better polling questions, run by unbiased organizations, polling a representative cross-section of the populous. It is unfortunate that most polls have at least some flaws, making them easy targets to rebuke or ridicule.

    Corwin (ea9428)

  7. Coincidentally, I was just reading the Keith Hennessey post Mary linked. He also offers a number of examples where the USG has not played by the rules of the private sector in order to drive out competition.

    Hennessey earlier noted that the “co-op” proposal floating around the Senate looks to bypass state insurance regs. As such, it is yet another iteration of public plan = unfair competition.

    Karl (2c1698)

  8. The sad part is that none of this will do anything to save the Medicare program, which is going bankrupt. One reason for this is that all these programs quickly become political footballs. For example, a lot of the problems for Medicare have to do with subsequent additions to the eligible list, not just elderly. Now disabled, and that definition is flexible, and all sorts of other diagnoses are folded into Medicare but without the resources to pay for them.

    I have watched this over nearly 50 years and it is a record of politics always trumping common sense. For example, when I was a medical student and a resident, the LA County Hospital was a great institution and a genuine resource for the poor. I can remember, even after 1965 when MediCal (the California Medicaid) took a lot of patients from the County into the small private hospitals in south-central LA, Women coming to the GYN clinic to be examined for female problems. We would work them up and then tell them they needed a hysterectomy. They would thank us and say, “I knew I could trust you boys at the County. Now, I’m going to have doctor Brown do it at Morningside Hospital (or another) because I can have a semi-private room. Thank you.” And off they would go. They didn’t totally trust some of those doctors (who were often running MediCal mills) but they wanted a nicer room.

    At that time, and for a long time after that, the federal government would not pay for care at the big charity hospitals and so an industry of mills developed that usually ripped off the system. Then, the politicians built King-Drew medical center in south-central LA and that place was total politics, all the time. The LA Times, to its credit, did a good job of investigation but the hospital went on for years killing people because they had the political clout, like the Mayor of Sacramento, to keep the authorities at bay.

    That was the nucleus of a good system of basic care for the poor. Instead, Johnson was determined they would have private care but there is no way to control such a program by a bureaucracy. You have to have a market mechanism. So what we got was a Medicaid system that delivers poor care and runs the states into bankruptcy. That’s what we will get from Obama, run like the Chicago Park District.

    There actually is a way to save health care and control costs. You go back to the old indemnity-style health insurance. The insurance pays a certain amount for each service that is covered. The balance is between the doctor and patient.

    That’s actually what the DRG system is for hospitals but hospitals are the worst managed businesses on earth. My wife comes home every night with another story about the clowns running the hospital where she works. You think to yourself, “they can’t go on like this. Somebody has to take control.” But nobody ever does.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  9. Pick your color:
    This is not about slavery or the mason/dixon, ladies and gentelmen.
    This about having ‘rights’ shoved up your ass, into every other orifice for the sake of……..wait for it…..whoah…wait for it…..
    …….they’ll get back to you on that on.
    Light ’em up and sharpen the living baJesus outta them forks.

    achalle (562c57)

  10. If Obama tries to ram this one through, his possible fate as a one – termer will be sealed. The public’s just about had enough of the gorging on the taxpayer’s teats – and as for here in Chicago, guess where all that stimulus money’s going to? Politically – connected contractors, the same ones that have been doing the incestuous gov’t bidding for decades now. Shovel – ready projects, my ass.

    Dmac (f7884d)

  11. Karl, state mandates are a big part of the problem. For example, even though we finally got reform in workers comp here, a couple of years ago we got another mandate for acupuncture. Now, there are no grounds to deny a trial. However. we can deny additional acupuncture if the patient does not show “objective” improvement. Soon the acupuncturists will figure out how to game that.

    California has done two big, big medical reforms over the years. The first was MICRA, the malpractice reform in 1975, and the other was workers comp a couple of years ago. In both cases, the state was at the verge of catastrophe when the reforms finally passed.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  12. The public will quickly come to realize that unfair competition is the entire point of a public plan. =yawn= Right. That nasty post office is unfairly competing with FedEx and UPS and could drive them out of business out of business. And that big, bad U.S. Government Printing Office is driving book publishers to the poor house, too. So much so, that poor old Dick Cheney was forced to take $2 million from a private sector publisher for his book deal. Tragic. And that government monopoly, the U.S. military, is poaching on the profits of privateers, private security firms and free market mercenaries as well. And public golf courses are thieving business and greens fees from private clubs, too. Sinister stuff.

    Americans have indicated their desire for the added choice in the marketplace of a public option for healthcare.

    Lawmakers, who work for the people, insured by the people by publicly funded government healthcare plans, who continue to try to deny the people that option is the true unfairness and contrary to the core of free market thinkers who champion ‘healthy’ competition. Championed, it seems, only if they own the playing field.

    DCSCA (9d1bb3)

  13. Decidedly off topic, but interesting.

    As of now (3:19 Eastern 6/24/09), the DJIA is below the close on 19 January 2009 – the day before Obama took the oath.

    Warren Buffett (an Obama supporter) is worried about inflation, and is worried that the recovery is stalled.

    So much for the vaunted recovery and the effects of the “stimulus” package.

    Dr. K (eca563)

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  15. Once again, DCSCA, you demonstrate that your search for analogies only finds your ignorance. The USPS does not “compete” with FedEx and UPS, it has a government enforced monopoly to prevent FedEx and UPS from competing with it. And the GPO? Sheesh, your comments get lamer by the day.

    SPQR (72771e)

  16. Mike K,

    My earlier point was not that the state mandates are a good thing. As Hennessey points out, the question is why private insurers should be bound by them if the public plan would not be. It goes to the notion that a public plan will almost inevitably engage in unfair competition.

    As to your first comment, I suppose the question is why anyone who looks at the unfixed messes of medicare will do better with a public plan, esp. after private insurers are driven from the market.

    Karl (2c1698)

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  18. I spoke with an orthopedic doctor today who informed me that his associates will not be seeing anyone OVER the age of 65 if Obama’s healthcare plan takes hold. He said to expect long waits to see a doctor not to mention medication assistance.
    We’re screwed.

    Prairie (2c8052)

  19. The current system is not broken. We just have widely expanding health care options and they are expensive. When the perception that health care is a “right” as opposed to a commodity-service like any other, politicians fall over one another to give us those rights.

    Our current system may be flawed, may not get as much care to everyone as we would like, but as Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms.” Well our health care system is the same.

    One thing though, Churchill also said: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

    I fear we will get the health care system we deserve.

    Joe (17aeff)

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