This post first appeared on the Practice Fusion Blog.
During Tuesday’s press frolic, the Big O put some mustard on his pitch for a public option, dismissing as “not logical” suggestions that a government plan would sink Big Insurance faster than the Titanic.
He followed quickly with a favorite refrain, which is that good, old-fashioned competition from a public plan would be an “important tool to discipline insurance companies.”
Then, in a denouement worthy of at least runner up at a Harvard Law Debate Club, he triple-dog-dared anyone to come up with a better plan that met his 2 etched-in-stone requirements. “Reform has to control costs and it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured,” he said.
Big Insurance, destined in this match to play Smokin’ Joe to the Big O’s Ali, released a wild haymaker of its own 2 hours before the Big O even showed up.
“We do not believe it is possible to create a government plan that could operate on a level playing field,” quoth Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Scott Serota, president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association in an open letter to the Senate.
“Regardless of how it is initially structured, a government plan would use its built-in advantages to take over the health insurance market,” the letter continued.
No doubt the Big O smirked when he read that.
Meanwhile, Kent Conrad, the intrepid Senator from North Dakota has created a stir with his suggestion that nonprofit consumer-owned cooperatives could be an alternative to the government plan.
He foresees the Feds forking over $3-4 billion to jumpstart the co-ops, after which time they would sink or swim on premiums and investment income, just like Big Insurance.
The Big O knows he can live with this or any approach that covers most everybody without breaking the bank, but on this day he was playing offense.
“If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government — which they say can’t run anything — suddenly is going to drive them out of business?” Obama asked.
Mr. Spock himself couldn’t have asked a more logical question.