Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Sally Pipes, the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and author of The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care (Pacific Research Institute, 2008).
FP: Sally Pipes, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Obama has appeared to have retreated on the option of government-run insurance.
Pipes: On Sunday, there was much talk over the airwaves among White House officials including Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that the Administration may be willing to strike the “public option” from the various House and Senate health care bills which are under currently under review. In its place would be government-chartered health insurance co-operatives.
The Obama Administration says these not-for-profit co-ops would be a “bipartisan compromise” to the government-run “public option.” They are being touted as bringing competition to the health insurance industry. The co-ops are just another example of getting more government involvement in the health care system. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) reported recently that the government-chartered co-ops could receive about $6 billion in seed funding and reserves to cover claims. This “seed money” would be greater than the total annual revenue of all but 20 of the 1300-insurance plans in this country, including MetLife. It is unclear whether this money would ever be repaid to the taxpayers.
The co-ops would be regulated by a federal-governing board set up by the feds who would determine what benefits must be included in a health insurance plan, what premiums would cost, and setting of rules.
A public option by any other name such as a co-op is just as evil. The Administration and many elected Congressmen want to take us down the path to a government-run, “Medicare for All” health care system. Just like in Canada , Americans will face long waiting lists for care, rationed care, and a lack of access to the latest technology. And, it will not be cheap. As the Congressional Budget Office has pointed out about the plans on the table—they will be expensive—between $1 to $1.6 trillion over 10 years, an increase in the deficit, higher taxes for all Americans, and reduced quality in the health care provided. Make no mistake, the co-op option is just another version of the public option.
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-NV) said a few weeks ago “We’re going to have some type of public option—you can call it a Co-op, call it whatever you want…”
FP: So Obama hasn’t really backed down on the public option?
Pipes: No, I do not think Obama has backed down on the public option. I think that Robert Gibbs, his Press Secretary and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius jumped the gun on the Sunday talk shows by saying that the public option is not essential to get what the President wants in terms of health care reform.
There has been a lot of backlash from liberal House Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean who is a major supporter of a totally government-run health care system, ie, a single-payer system.
The President keeps saying "if you like your doctor and you like your insurance, nothing will change for you." This is not correct. Under a public option or government-chartered co-ops, this will not be possible because of the demands that the government will put on what is an acceptable insurance plan. Private insurance plans will not be able to compete against the public option or the co-ops, the government will price their plans cheaper and private insurers will be "crowded out" of the market and we will all be left in a government-run system--"Medicare for All."
FP: Your thoughts on the co-op plan?
Pipes: The co-op plan is only part of the on-going bi-partisan negotiations with the Senate Finance Committee under Chairman Max Baucus. There is not a deal yet and, in fact, it does not look like the Committee will have a bill agreed upon by the three Republican members of the Committee and the three Democratic members. Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota is a big proponent of the co-ops but the truth is they are controlled by government and will result in the same rationed care, long waiting lists, increased taxes for all Americans, and a higher deficit. I think the push for a "public option" is not dead and that is what the President, the Administration, and Liberal Democrats want. The co-op idea in my mind is not going to be included in the final bill.
As Howard Dean said, "if we cannot get the "public option", the discussion should be tabled. It is so important to get the public option to people like the President, Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and others. The long-term goal of all of these people is to have the government in charge of health care decisions instead of putting doctors and patients in charge.
FP: So, in the end then, this wasn’t really a retreat by Obama?
Pipes: No. I do not believe that President Obama has retreated at all. I think he is totally committed to the public option because he believes it is the path to a health care system controlled by government. He has said on numerous occasions that he supports a single payer system which means that government is the sole provider. When he says it is not the Canadian system, well I ask what system? There are only two single payer systems in the world--Canada and North Korea.
I think the President believes that government is more efficient than the private sector and can do things cheaper. We know this is not the case. Since 1970, according to PRI scholar Dr. Jeff Anderson, medicare and medicaid costs per patient are about 35 percent more expensive than the costs of private insurance. Also, government economists and politicians are never able to estimate the cost of a government program. Look at Medicare--when it began in 1965, the cost was $3 billion per year. The precursor to the Congressional Budget Office predicted that Medicare would cost about $12 billion. In fact, it cost $110 billion. Medicare and Medicaid are projected to cost about $700 billion each by 2017 and they will be bankrupt. There is also tremendous fraud and abuse in these programs.
President Obama wants us all in a government-run health care program. It will not be cheap. The estimates of the various bills on the table today range between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion over 10 years. They will not be deficit neutral. The CBO is saying they will add about $239 billion to the deficit at the end of 10 years. We will all face increased taxes, higher deficits, rationed care, and a lower quality of care.
Canadians have an escape valve--30,000 out of a population of 32 million come to the U.S. to have surgery and tests done because the waits are too long. Where are the best doctors in America going to go and where will we as patients go when government takes over our health care system?
FP: What is the best alternative?
Pipes: The plans that are in the three House Democratic bills and the Senate HELP bill are all based on the public option and putting government in charge of our health care system. Today, 47 percent of the health care system is in the hands of government. Politicians want to take over the other 53 percent so that we will have a Canadian-style single-payer system with long waiting lists, rationed care, and lack of access to the latest technology.
Instead of increasing the role of government in our health care system, we need to have patient-centered solutions. We need to empower doctors and patients, we need to change the federal tax code to get rid of the tax exclusion, reduce state mandates, allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines so they can get the policy that best suits their needs, and to cap non-economic damages on lawsuits. Doctors practice defensive medicine because they are so afraid of being sued. The cost of practicing defensive medicine is $210 billion a year. Texas capped non-economic damage awards and doctors came back to the state, new doctors came to the state, the cost of medical malpractice insurance went down, and insurance premiums went down.
FP: Sally Pipes, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.