May it suffer the same fate as HillaryCare 1.0.
As reported by The Hill, President Obama wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “I think Congress should revisit a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited.” As he notes, such a plan was included in the early drafts of what would become known as Obamacare. What he doesn’t note is that at the time such a proposal was a bridge too far even for a good number of Democrats.
Opposition to the public option was, admittedly, in part because of pressure from the health insurance industry, whose powerful lobby eventually had a major part in drafting the Affordable Care Act. But it was also because a number of moderate Democrats (do those still exist?) correctly recognized that a “public option” was inevitably just a step on the path to a fully government-owned, single-payer health care system. Whether they personally supported or opposed British-style government health care, wise Democrats at the time realized that America was not even close to accepting a total government takeover of such a personal good.
So what has changed? Partially the makeup of the Democratic Party. Many of the moderate, “Blue Dog” Democrats suffered electoral consequences of its party going far-left and embracing President Obama and Obamacare. The fact that Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, performed so well in the Democratic primary should certainly embolden the most hardcore progressives within the party.
It’s like free markets, except that the government can use its bulk to undercut any private competitor, and before long – oops – only the government option remains.
Another thing that has changed is that the structure of Obamacare has naturally led to a collapse in competition and an increase in costs within the individual health insurance market. Guess what happens when you require health insurers to charge young healthy people the same as older sicker people and require that every plan cover every individual for every condition? Prices go up, quality hovers around the minimum allowed, and health insurers start taking losses and decide they don’t want to play this game anymore (a game they helped rig, but who’s keeping track?).
Even then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (F, 2%) admitted, in a moment of rare candor in 2013, that Obamacare was not a long-term solution and was only a step on the road to single-payer, government care.
And so the Democrats come riding to the rescue on a white stallion called “Public Option.” Because if those insurance companies cannot provide the kind of affordable plans that Obamacare impossibly expects them to, then the kind government can step in and provide them some extra… competition. It’s like free markets, except that the government can use its bulk to undercut any private competitor, and before long – oops – only the government option remains. Guess that under the individual mandate, everyone will have to buy a government plan.
The timing is not a coincidence, as Hillary Clinton heads to receive her coronation at the DNC convention. Hillary has been touting the public option for months, and the rapid decay of Obamacare will provide her with the excuse to push for it should she take up residence in the White House. Doubtless, she would love a chance to try to make good on her most spectacular failure: the abrupt collapse of the health care proposal that came to bear her name. Wrapped around the core of the public option, the larvae that will metamorphose into a true universal government health care system, HillaryCare 2.0 would be far more ambitious in fact than its predecessor.
Of course, the GOP-controlled House would never go for such a thing. But look for health care to be used as a bludgeon against them as the Democrats try to paint a public option as the only possible next step.
Josh Withrow is an Associate Editor for Conservative Review and Director of Public Policy at Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgwithrow.