Monday, July 20, 2009

Which Is It, Hon?

When conservatives and health insurance lobbyists talk against even the idea of a public option in health insurance they come up with funny stuff like this (from a few days ago):

In the Ways and Means session, Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, who offered the amendment to kill the government plan, said it would have unfair advantages over private insurers.

"It is impossible for the private sector to compete fairly with government, with all its muscle and all its tools," Mr. Ryan said. He predicted that many employers who now provided health benefits would "dump their employees into the public plan."

Under the bill, the government plan would initially pay health care providers at rates pegged to Medicare rates, which are on average lower than what private insurers pay. Some Democrats joined Republicans in objecting to this provision.

Mr. Pomeroy said: "I have a serious problem with the public plan in this bill because it's based on Medicare rates."

Why do I call it funny? Because the usual conservative argument against government provision of anything but dead people of other nationalities is that the government is too inefficient! Now suddenly it's too efficient! Butbut... I thought it was the markets which were efficient! My poor head hurts.

It would be possible to take that argument about the unfair advantages of the government and to transfer it to those markets where the larger firms have all sorts of 'unfair' advantages: economies of scale, the ability to get quantity discounts from their suppliers and so on. But I've never read a conservative critique of that (though they may exist, somewhere).

Then Mr. Pomeroy's argument that pegging the public option rates to Medicare reimbursement rates is not fair, because those rates are lower than the private rates. But isn't this reform supposed to be both about getting more people health care coverage AND slowing down the rate of increase in health care costs? If the public option is pegged to current private rates the costs won't be controlled at all and then THAT will show how very inefficient the government is, once again.

It's like a merry-go-round.