As part of his health care reform package, President Barack Obama wants to offer a low-cost government health insurance policy modeled on Medicare to compete with private health insurance policies. The government policy will be low cost, in large part, because agency bureaucrats will be able to impose price controls on hospitals, doctors, and drug companies. But not to worry says, Obama as he repeats his soothing mantra:
"Under the Obama health care plan, you will be able to keep your doctor and your health insurance if you want."
Not really so, says former Food and Drug Administration official and American Enterprise Institute fellow, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, in a smart Wall Street Journal op/ed yesterday. Gottlieb points out:
While the public option is meant for the uninsured, employers will realize it's easier—and cheaper—to move employees into the government plan than continue workplace coverage.
The Lewin Group, a health-care policy research and consulting firm, estimates that enrollment in the public option will reach 131 million people if it's open to everyone and pays Medicare rates, as many expect. Fully two-thirds of the privately insured will move out of or lose coverage. As patients shift to a lower-paying government plan, doctors' incomes will decline by as much as 15% to 20% depending on their specialty.
Of course, for supporters of a single payer government health care this shift would be, as they say, a feature, not a bug.