Press Play

Morning. The Hill’s got a piece up today featuring HCAN’s support for giving everyone the choice of a public health insurance plan. There are some factual errors, but it’s not the most horrific article. Here’s my contribution:

“We want quality affordable healthcare for all Americans in 2009; comprehensive benefits that meet people’s needs; and a choice of private or public health insurance plans,” said Jacki Schechner, the coalition’s communications director. “We believe everybody should have the choice of public health insurance.”

In related news, Jonathan Cohn wrote an excellent summary of the latest Jacob Hacker paper released yesterday. Hacker argues in favor of the choice of a public health insurance plan in his report titled “Healthy Competition.” Here’s an excerpt of the Cohn write:

Still, the focus of the paper is on what a public plan could do that private plans couldn’t–starting with innovation:

a new public health insurance plan for the non-elderly (and Medicare, through its association with the new plan) can and should be centrally involved in obtaining better information to improve physician and patient decisions, as well as insurer decisions about coverage, pricing, and benefit structure. Because of its broad and national reach, the stability of its enrollment, and the unparalleled opportunity for data collection and use, the new public health insurance plan is the player in the system that will have the largest incentives to make these investments.

Hacker also emphasized a point he, and other public plan advocates, have made before: That a public plan is an essential backstop to private plans, since–even with the best regulations–some private insurers might find ways to avoid covering sick people or addressing their needs properly. In other words, a public plan is essential to make sure private plans don’t keep conducting business the way many of them do now.

But it is on cost control where, Hacker said, the advantages of a public plan are most apparent. It’s not just that public insurance plans operate with lower administrative costs. It’s also that public plans have more bargaining leverage–and, to some extent, are more willing to use their bargaining leverage–than private insurers. A recent report from the Lewin Group backs up this claim: It found that a public plan, using government bargaining power, could reduce premiums dramatically–by around 30 percent.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to care about making sure we all get the choice of a public health insurance plan. Insurance companies are fighting it with everything they’ve got for a reason.

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