Obama Inadvertently Explains Why Any Public Option Health Insurance Is Doomed
He said an audience member raised a "legitimate concern" about how a government-run health-care program might affect private insurers.
"My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining -- meaning taxpayers aren't subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do -- then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time."
Then he invoked the Postal Service:
"I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It's the post office that's always having problems."
That comment provoked laughter from the audience.
Oh, so the public option will be like the United States Postal Service. It will be constantly undermined by elected officials who insist it compete with private companies as an "equal" even as they ensure that the private companies get all the really lucrative customers and the postal service gets stuck with all the thankless, unprofitable work that requires them to drive every back road in this country to deliver a letter for less than 50 cents while also giving deep discounts to help mail-based business, regardless of whether such deliveries or discounts make sense from a business perspective.* And the Postal Service is expected to do all of this while the Government insists it do things that none of its private competitors have to do (such as prepay future retiree health benefits). Then when the public option, like the Postal Service, cannot win its race against private companies blindfolded with its legs tied together, it will be mocked by the President of the United States.** That does sound like a good plan.
What could go wrong? Well, for starters, this losing set up has led the Postal Service to repeatedly raise rates in recent years (since "deregulation" started under Carter) and threaten to cut back services to the poor people who can't afford to spend $25 dollars to FedEx a letter to their mother in Bumfuck, Idaho. That's what this public option competing against private carriers has gotten us - a service that costs more and provides less for the neediest among us.
And isn't all that hilarious? The government entity a lot of Americans rely on has been gutted to help private companies earn more money at the expense (literally, in terms of rate increases) of poor Americans. Ha, ha, ha! That is funny, Mr. President.
The Postal Service is not an example of why private companies are better than public ones or how they can compete with the government successfully when we're talking about a core government service. It's an example of how far the government is willing to go to hamstring itself from doing its job so that a handful of companies can make more money at the expense of Americans who depend on a government service.
That's exactly how I expect any public option to work, thank you Mr. President for being honest about that, which is why I won't support it.
* I don't think USPS should have to do things simply because it makes good business sense in the narrow terms private entities use. The Postal Service still provides an important service, even today (not everyone has email or access to a computer and internet hook up), and it should be judged on how well it provides that service and at what cost, not on whether it can break even in providing the service. Moreover, even if it doesn't make money (or loses money), it's a critical part of the infrastructure that allows other companies and people to make money. Netflix, for example, wouldn't exist without the USPS and its low bulk mail rates. So just by forcing it to "compete" on the terms of private companies, as opposed to public entities, its set up to ensure failure.
** Any time any public official mocks an agency that essentially works for him, he's really only damning himself. You can't be at the top of Government and mock how poorly Government operates and not implicitly be criticizing yourself. Not that that ever stopped any politician.