Public supports a competing plan to lower costs

A public health insurance plan for the general population similar to Medicare for those over 65 would bring health insurance costs down and “keep private insurance companies honest,” the administration proposes.
President Obama’s proposal was attacked full bore Tuesday by industry officials who claimed a government insurance plan would destroy the work-related health care coverage a majority of Americans have depended upon for decades. It would, they claimed, drive private companies out of business and result in a government takeover.
The president in a news conference retorted: “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care ... then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business?”
Government wouldn’t have to make a profit, the critics complain.
No, but it would have to break even, according to the administration’s proposal.
As reported Monday, the public is strongly in favor of forcing health insurance costs down with a public plan — perhaps because business and industry have been faced with steep increases in the cost of the coverage it offers employees and has been forced to pass some of those costs on to employees in the form of increased deductibles, higher co-pays and reduced coverage.
It is also possible that at least some are aware of the monstrous compensation paid to health insurance executives, which can only be paid from outsized earnings. William W. McGuire, CEO of United Healthcare, was paid a total of $342,284,000 for the five years from 2000 to 2005. His pay and benefits amounted to about 5 percent of the company’s total profits in 2005.
McGuire is the horrible example critics use when arguing that health insurance costs could be reduced if administrative costs were slashed. But he is not alone.
Here are a few other health care CEO earnings in 2005: PacifiCare, $3.38 million; Cigna, $13.3 million; Aetna, $22.2 million; Wellpoint, $25 million.
Is it any wonder that the industry is shouting that the sky is falling?
It is quite possible that competition from a government insurance plan operated with the goal of reducing costs while expanding coverage would force private companies to reduce prices in order to compete. And maybe the result would be fewer multi-million compensation packages. They might even be forced to cut CEO salaries back — horrors! — to the pay package earned by the President of the United States. Wouldn’t that be a gross indignity?

ALL DISCUSSIONS about health care reform should begin by stating that U.S. medicine leads the world in its level of excellence and technical superiority and then move on to these undeniable facts:
— Health care in the United States is about 30 percent more expensive than it is in any other industrialized country on Earth and costs twice as much as other high-cost countries such as Japan pay.
— Health care costs are the fastest-growing budget items in every state budget and represent the greatest fiscal threat to the federal budget.
— Even though the U.S. spends far more than any other nation on health care, about 45 million are uninsured and overall health outcomes in the U.S. are below those in several nations that spend less even though they provide coverage for every one of their citizens.
The fact is that the rising cost of our health care cannot be sustained. Bringing costs down while expanding coverage isn’t just a good idea, it’s an absolute necessity.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.