It is unsettling to listen as President Obama and House Speaker Pelosi talk up a health-care reform “plan” that has yet to take shape in any realistic form.
The vagueness on the part of the president and the speaker is, of course, intentional.
Obama and Pelosi are still pushing the notion that they can get some version of their public-private stew cooked up before the year is done — although not, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, before the president and the Congress take the extended summer vacations that will kill whatever sense of official urgency might have existed.
Reid has taken some hits for suggesting that it would be a good idea to try and get health-care reform right, rather than just rush through a plan that fails to cover all Americans or control costs.
But that requires details. And neither Obama nor Pelosi is dealing in details right now because that’s where the devil resides.
Here is the truth they tend to avoid mentioning: A robust public plan, with the quality and flexibility that is required to make it appealing to all Americans, would wipe out its insurance-industry competitors in short order. Why would anyone opt for more of the profiteering, restrictions and actual denials of needed treatment — especially for people with pre-existing conditions — that the insurance industry uses to make money rather than provide Americans with the medical care they require? And why would any employer choose to subsidize the stock value of health-care conglomerates when it is possible to opt for the better care and controlled costs of a public plan?
Unfortunately, the creation of a robust public plan, one that can compete on the basis of quality and affordability, will require a significant federal expenditure in the form of start-up money as well as regulatory protection for the program. That’s where the devil comes in.
The powerful insurance and private health-care lobbies, which fear honest competition as the vampire does the stake, are going to do everything in their power to accomplish three things:
1. Scare Americans with hypocritical talk about the hefty price-tag for getting a robust public plan off the ground.
2. Undermine the structural supports for a public plan so that it cannot compete — effectively turning it into a sub-standard “alternative” that will appeal only to those who have no other options.