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Government-run medicine threatens private coverage for tens of millions

Created on May 26, 2009

Government-run medicine threatens private coverage for tens of millions

What's Wrong with a Public Health Care Plan?

By Rich Tucker

Using the powers of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the federal government is always eager to break up any monopoly. Unless, of course, the monopolist is the government itself.

Washington makes it illegal for private companies to handle most letters, for example, because otherwise private companies such as Fed Ex and UPS would overwhelm the Postal Service with their lower prices and superior service.

Remember that as the discussion over health care heats up.

Some lawmakers say they want to provide health insurance to more people by creating a public plan to "compete" with private insurance. If that happens, Congress and the administration would be able to set rules that favor their public plan, as Nina Owcharenko, a top health-care expert at The Heritage Foundation, writes.

Independent analyses show that employers would jettison private insurance coverage for as many as 119 million Americans, moving them into the cheaper (for employers, at least) public plan.

Quality would suffer, too.

Consider current government health plans: Medicare has huge gaps in coverage and Medicaid's quality is notoriously bad. The record is clear. Public programs offer substandard care compared to private health insurance, especially in cancer cases and cardiac care.

With a public plan, the federal government would create the rules for the "game" in which it plans to compete. But the government would not just be a neutral umpire in the game. It also would own one of the competing teams, and could be expected to favor that team.

Instead of expanding Washington's control of health care, Congress should allow states to develop solutions that will transfer direct control of health care dollars and personal decisions back to individuals and families.

Rich Tucker is senior writer in the Communications Department of The Heritage Foundation.