Michael Bloomberg, who finally took part in a primary debate on Wednesday night, and other less radical Democratic presidential primary candidates, such as Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg, are campaigning on healthcare reform that prioritizes a public option. They’re trying to distinguish the public option as a compromise between the status quo and Medicare for All.
“Mike’s plan will allow people to keep their private insurance,” reads his website, and “create a Medicare-like public insurance option.” By pursuing a public option that would destroy private insurance markets, Bloomberg and his travelers are trying to eat their cake and have it too.
In reality, a public option is synonymous with Medicare for All. Both reforms turn control of healthcare over to the government. They are both just stepping stones toward single-payer, which has been Democrats’ ultimate objective since the Truman and Johnson administrations. No matter how they phrase it, single-payer healthcare reforms will hurt patients, doctors, and taxpayers.
Consider the government-run healthcare programs that already exist: Medicaid, Veteran’s Health, and even Medicare itself. Half of providers nationwide do not accept new Medicaid patients. And for one-quarter of those who can even get an appointment, they must wait more than a month to see a doctor. Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is bankrupting states, with each new enrollee costing about 75 percent more than originally estimated. Studies show Medicaid recipients have no better health outcomes than those with no health insurance at all.
Like these government-run programs, a public option would consign patients to substandard healthcare, with rationing, long wait lines, and worse outcomes.
Bizarrely, Mayor Bloomberg justifies a public option as bringing more competition to healthcare. “A public health insurance option would create a competitor to private insurers that could potentially drive down costs across the board,” he wrote in a New York Daily News op-ed in 2009. But government programs never increase competition. Rather, they distort the market and crowd out private options because it is nearly impossible to compete against a government competitor with unlimited resources offering a “free” product.
The handful of private insurance options that could remain in a public option system would charge exorbitant prices. Good quality healthcare would become a vestige for the rich and powerful while ordinary Americans would be relegated to government care.
Doctors would suffer almost as much as patients under socialized medicine. According to research by Charles Blahous, a former Medicare trustee, doctors’ payment rates would be reduced by more than 40 percent less under Medicare reimbursement rates. These low payouts would exacerbate widespread physician shortages and burnout, which affects nearly half of all doctors, according to a recent Medscape survey.
Mayor Bloomberg claims a public option would lower administrative burdens, which are contributing to doctor dissatisfaction and high health costs. But this perspective misunderstands the nature of government bureaucracy, which grows unchecked without a profit and loss system. Administrative bloat under a public option would only grow.
In fact, research finds that a public option would increase the federal deficit dramatically. According to estimates from researchers at the Hoover Institution, a public option would increase the 10-year federal deficit by more than than $700 billion. Within a few years, the annual deficit would increase by more than $100 billion, while the federal debt would skyrocket by 30 percent of GDP over the next three decades.
The only way to fund such a massive government expansion would be dramatic tax increases on small businesses and ordinary Americans, hurting the economy and reducing job opportunities. When small business owners consider the full fiscal and health impacts of Bloomberg’s public option, their support for him will diminish. Last week, the mainstream media spun a Gallup poll of small business owners that was favorable to Trump as a victory for Bloomberg, whom respondents favored 52 percent to 48 percent — within the margin of error — over Trump. In contrast, a new national poll of small business owners conducted by the Job Creators Network finds that Trump beats Bloomberg in a head-to-head matchup by the overwhelming margin of 91 percent to 5 percent.
The alternative to government-run healthcare is the Job Creators Network Foundation’s Healthcare for You framework, which increases choices, lowers costs, and repairs the doctor-patient relationship. This bottom-up approach to fixing American healthcare stands as an antidote to single-payer, whether it’s under the guise of Medicare for All or Bloomberg’s public option.