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Will ‘public option’ health care plans make it harder for Americans to get better care?

Feb 24, 2021 by AFP

To lower prices, increase quality, and expand access to health care, Americans need a personal option, one that relies on greater choice and competition in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, some lawmakers see more top-down federal control as the proper solution. Last week, a bill was introduced in Congress that would create a federal insurance program — called a “public option,” or Medicare X — to “compete” with private plans.

Proponents of this program claim that the issues plaguing American health care are a consequence of too little government involvement.

That just isn’t the case. Americans are overburdened with an excess of state and federal mandates that make care less affordable and more difficult to access.

Americans don’t need a public option. They need a personal one that allows them to receive the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.

A ‘public option’ would cause higher health care costs for millions of Americans

Supporters of a public option in health care claim the program would feature plans that are less expensive than those typically offered by private insurance. But those “savings” can’t materialize from thin air.

Under the bill, the public option would be required to underpay doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers for their services, offering much lower rates of reimbursement — often below the cost of care — as is typically done with Medicare and Medicaid.

The result? An $800 billion cut for providers.

Perhaps some providers could afford to eat that cost. The majority, who could not, would face a painful choice: either turn away public option enrollees — which, under the bill, means being automatically kicked out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs as a punishment — or try to make up the difference by charging higher rates to privately insured patients.

In other words, a public option wouldn’t make health care better for Americans. It would reduce patients’ access to care, punish the doctors and nurses who risked everything to take care of us during the COVID-19 crisis, and make the private insurance plans held by tens of millions of Americans even more expensive.

Ultimately, a public option is backdoor single-payer.

Americans for Prosperity Senior Policy Fellow Dean Clancy stressed in a recent interview with the Daily Caller that a public option could result in the end of Americans’ private plans entirely.

“It would be basically a new government-run health insurance company that would, in effect, rig the rules to drive all the private insurance companies out of the market,” Clancy said. “So that at the end of the day, we would end up with a government-run, single-payer system.”

What can the federal government do to promote a personal option?

The federal government has an important role to play in making personal health care options more available to Americans. That will require slimming down, not expanding, onerous, one-size-fits-all mandates.

For example, Congress could eliminate the regulations that prevent Americans from accessing health savings accounts, contributing to them, and using them to purchase the medical services and products they need. Legislation has been proposed to do exactly that, most notably with Representative Chip Roy’s Personalized Care Act.

The federal government has already seen some success in removing barriers to HSAs. When a federal rule change allowed account holders to purchase direct primary care subscriptions, more Americans were given access to round-the-clock care from the country’s top medical providers.

Studies show that families and individuals with HSAs typically spend less on care, without forgoing any necessary services or procedures.

What the states can do

Over the years, states have erected massive barriers to quality, affordable care. They must now lower them to help Americans access more personal options.

States could start with their certificate-of-need laws, which needlessly — and intentionally — restrict the supply of care to benefit existing providers. CON boards will routinely spike the applications of providers who want to open new facilities or even offer additional services to patients in a certain area, often under the direction of established providers.

Studies have shown that CON laws reduce access to care, erode its quality, and increase its price. Reforming or repealing these laws would drastically improve Americans’ health care outcomes.

States could also reform their scope-of-practice laws. These restrictions prevent nurse practitioners and other qualified providers from offering care to patients without first establishing an agreement with a physician.

But again, studies show these laws don’t work. They don’t make patients safer — they simply make it more difficult for Americans to access medical care, especially in rural areas.

Americans are saddled with regulations that make health care more expensive and harder to access. They need a personal option, one which recognizes that choice and competition are the best tools to improve care. Tell lawmakers to reject a public option.