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New Plan for the Public Option

I have been asked for my opinion at least a dozen times since the new democrat plan for a public option was announced on Tuesday morning.  The basic framework of the new plan calls for allowing Americans 55 and older to buy into Medicare.  Medicare currently starts at 65 years of age.  It would also provide for a  national insurance plan to be negotiated and administered by the Federal Office of Personnel Management.  This is the office that administers insurance for all current and retired federal employees.

So what do I think?  I think it’s just another mechanism to pass healthcare reform, which I firmly support.  I have made no secret in my beliefs that we could accomplish meaningful healthcare reform, including the opening up of private insurance markets, through stronger regulation (without a public option), but that does not seem to pass muster with the liberal groups in Congress.  There are an unlimited number of ways to provide a national insurance plan to the public – whether it be through the plan described above, a co-op system, or a Medicare like plan for everyone younger than age 65.  In the end, it is all extending the governments role into healthcare – albeit with different degrees of involvement.  From my perspective, we could start without any national/government managed plan and see what happens through stronger oversight and regulation of the private sector.  It will certainly be less bureaucratic and less expensive.  Yet with the liberal (and majority) base strongly in favor of a national plan, I see no scenario whereby the private insurance market will be allowed to exist without competition from a government plan of some kind. 

Like most of us, I have many concerns and questions.  Can we afford this plan? Will the private sector be able to compete/survive (I believe they have a role – this is America after all)?  What will we pay the doctors and hospitals?   Remember, the private sector already supports the lower payments from Medicare.  Unfortunately, there is no answer to any of this right now.  Anyone who tells you they know is just not correct.  We have ideas but in truth, right now we just do not know – mainly because half of the reform is based on cost controls that still need to be worked out.  Time will tell how this is all going to play out – I do believe there will be reform and it may very well be by the end of the year (the Senate Bill anyway).  What I do know for certain, and what I have said all along, is we must pass reform.  No matter what happens, we are going to be fixing what we screw up over the next few months.  Remember, nothing is perfect.

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