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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Small Biz Health Care Daily: The Public Option and 60

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is walking a fine line on health care reform. He wants a government-run insurance plan included in the measure, so he came up with the gimmick that states would have the chance to opt out of the public option.

How this would actually work, and how it answers the criticisms that a government plan would lead to runaway costs remain mysteries. For good measure, in order for a state to drop out, it would have to, as Fox News reported, “demonstrate an alternative.”

Reid needs 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. But his proposal has only increased potential opposition to the plan. As the news report noted, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has said he would support a GOP filibuster, and uncertainty swirls about Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

For good measure, the lone Republican to vote in favor of the Senate Finance health reform bill, Olympia Snowe, R-Me., declared she would not support the government plan option. However, the report also pointed out: “Snowe wanted Reid to include a plan that would ‘trigger’ a government option down the road if the insurance industry does not meet certain benchmarks. That he didn't ‘sends a terrible message’ that Democrats have no interest in working with Republicans, Snowe said.”

No matter how it is pitched – an immediate government insurance plan, an opt-out option, state-run plans, or some kind of trigger for government insurance – it all points in the wrong direction. That is, government, one way or another, running an insurance plan, while imposing costly regulations and mandates on private insurers. That’s a recipe for ever-expanding government insurance, and ever-expanding costs for taxpayers – including both consumers and small businesses.

Raymond J. Keating
Chief Economist
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

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