WSJ Editorial: “Divisions among Democrats doomed the public option”
Yesterday, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the newest attack on Republicans for Obamacare’s failing co-ops. Democrats continue to dodge responsibility for the president’s health law by accusing Republicans of neglecting the public option, “Medicaid for all”, and in place supporting insurance co-ops that were doomed to fail from the start. On the contrary, “Moderate Democrats ultimately demanded that the public option be sent to a death panel in exchange for their support for the rest of ObamaCare, which in turn ended their careers, and the co-ops were a consolation prize for the left.” The lack of unity amongst the Democrats is costing the American people nearly $1 billion dollars. The clock is ticking and we are continuing to pay for it.
October 22, 2015
EDITORIAL: A New Attack on Health-Care Reality
The cataract of insurance co-op failures—nine down, 14 to go—has liberals defensive over ObamaCare. Most amusing is their attempt to blame this debacle conceived by liberals and perpetrated by liberals on, yes, Republicans.
The federally sponsored co-ops were designed as an alternative to for-profit insurers, and they’re now going insolvent one by one. The emerging sentimental narrative is that a “Republican filibuster” in the Senate in 2009-10 prevented Democrats from adopting the White House’s preferred public option, and therefore naturally the inferior co-ops were bound to have problems.
The apologists pushing this excuse would be more convincing if they weren’t rewriting the recent past that everybody remembers. The public option—Medicaid for all—was supposed to be an opening wedge for single-payer health care. But the idea didn’t die because of Republicans, who were shut out of four of the five committees that wrote ObamaCare and with merely 40 Senators were helpless to stop so much as a swinging door.
Divisions among Democrats doomed the public option, and the party’s now-extinct moderates protested precisely because they understood the public option’s radicalism. Their opposition provoked a brutal internal counterattack from progressives.
In summer 2009 President Obama’s then-political arm, Organizing for America, even ran political ads accusing troublesome swing-state Senators of being on the take from the insurance lobby. The targets included Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor), Indiana (Evan Bayh), Florida (Bill Nelson), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu) and Nebraska (Ben Nelson).
Similar treatment had the now nearly defunct Blue Dog caucus in the House all but hiring food tasters. As Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank put it at the time: “We just don’t have the votes for it. I wish we did. I think if we had a good public option it would lead to single payer.”
As for the ex post facto alibi that the public option would have been stronger than the co-ops, this is the ObamaCare version of the line that communism can’t be judged because it’s never been tried. Imagine if this Administration—which spent $1.7 billion on a calamity of a website—had to start up and manage the health insurance equivalent of a state-run oil company. Moderate Democrats ultimately demanded that the public option be sent to a death panel in exchange for their support for the rest of ObamaCare, which in turn ended their careers, and the co-ops were a consolation prize for the left.
We rehearse this history because the co-ops were still intended to be a competitive threat to private insurance. The public option was supposed to use its government subsidy to drive out private competitors and force hospitals and doctors to accept below-cost price controls. The co-ops attempted a junior-league version of the same strategy, underpricing their coverage to gain market share, and then planned on taking advantage of their implicit taxpayer backstop.
If liberals want to blame Republicans for defunding this anticipated bailout in last year’s budget deal, at least that would be true. But maybe first they should account for the $928.8 million in federal “seed money” that has been wasted so far, or why only one of the surviving co-ops is not running at a financial loss.
Read the entire editorial online here