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Monday, October 26, 2009

Small Biz Health Care Daily: Opt Out on Public Option?

The New York Times reported on Monday afternoon that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that Senate health care legislation would include a so-called “opt out” for the states on a government health care plan.

The Times reported:

“I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House, Senators Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference.

“Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt out if they so choose. I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.”

Pressed on whether he would could advance the bill with the public option included, Mr. Reid said he believed Senate Democrats would remain united to do so. “I believe we clearly will have the support of my caucus to move to this bill and start legislating,” he said.

But other Democrats were not so sure. Even as liberal groups quickly began heaping praise on Mr. Reid for his decision to support a government-run plan, some Democrats on Capitol Hill privately expressed worries that he did not have firm commitments from all 60 Senate Democrats.

The Times pointed out that Democratic Senators Mary Landrieu (LA) and Bob Nelson (NE) have raised doubts about a public plan, and Republican Olympia Snowe (ME), who supported the Senate Finance Committee’s bill, declared she would not support Reid’s plan.

In the end, a government plan is a government plan. And allowing some states to opt out would accomplish nothing in terms of the damage the plan would do to health care in general, i.e., in terms of driving up costs, and therefore hiking taxes, while diminishing the quality of care. Senator Reid is still trying to make a dangerous and ugly plan look good. That will not work. It’s time to throw out the very idea of injecting more government into health care, and start taking constructive steps that will help consumers and small businesses by boosting market choice and competition, and thereby making health care more affordable and accessible.

Raymond J. Keating
Chief Economist
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

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