Monthly Archive for October, 2009

Misconceptions, Episode 2: The “Government-run” Healthcare Company

Everyone’s heard more than enough about healthcare in this country over the past 2-3 months, so I’ll try to limit myself to my point. It breaks down fourfold:

The “Government-run” plan isn’t that at all. Your congressman isn’t going to be deciding your healthcare. Your government isn’t going to be affecting your healthcare whatsoever, except by funding a separate option for you. Rather, much like the Federal Reserve, the “public option” provides for the funding and creation of a health insurance company that is owned by the government and over which the government has oversight, but which is not run by the government.

So you see my problem with the term “Government-run.” If President Obama denying you your healthcare options is your worst nightmare, sleep easy. Moving on.

Healthcare reform as we’re pushing it makes zero sense without a public option of some sort. There are a number of regulations in HR3200 that are meant to curb excessive spending, but the most radical change and the one that stands to make the most difference as a result is the mandate that everyone in the country needs to purchase health insurance of some kind.

So what happens when you require people to buy health insurance without actually making it more affordable? The health insurance industry stands to profit. A lot. And a lot of families are going to go bankrupt. That’s why they’re not fighting healthcare reform in general, but they’re pouring their coffers into fighting the public option, which would create competition and force them to charge reasonable prices. AAHCA, contrary to what many believe, will only further damage our healthcare system unless a price-limiting factor is introduced.

The public option will not cost trillions. I don’t know how this one got started, but the facts are pretty simple. There is a bipartisan body called the Congressional Budget Office whose sole job is to aid lawmakers with their decisions by estimating the total cost of every bill that Congress considers. Their analysis states that the plan would cost $1.042 trillion dollars to implement, but would bring savings and revenue of $892 billion, for a net total cost over 10 years of $239 billion. That’s, of course, $23.9 billion per year, or about 1/6 of what we spent on the Iraq War this year.

And that estimate is only from the perspective of the government, too — it makes no account of the money families will save each year.

The public at large is in support of the public option. It depends on how you ask it, I will grant — if you phrase it as a “Government-run” option, support drops, but I’ve already illustrated how that’s a falsehood to begin with. If you look at Nate Silver’s analysis, you’ll find that support for the public option generally rests between 60-70%.


It’s pretty ridiculous how long this process has dragged on, for how little reward it seems to be able to provide. While it is true that the economic impact of completely dissolving our private healthcare industry in favor of a single-payer system renders that option infeasible (remember, one in every six dollars spent in America is spent on healthcare), a public option seems like such a small concession towards making things right that I shudder to think of what will happen when something truly groundbreaking comes up.


Addendum/Appendix: “Why does it make sense to force everyone to get healthcare in the first place? It makes no sense to me.”

The answer is, in two words, preventive medicine. Simply look at this chart listing all the preventable causes of death per year, and imagine all the healthcare costs involved with the attempted treatment of all these things once it is too late.