Yesterday I mentioned Obama's response to the argument (made by George Will inter alia) that the "public option" (in part on account of its being not-for-profit) will kill private for-profit insurance. Here again is Obama's response:
OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If — if private — if private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.
Now, the — I think that there's going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly that over time they can't compete with the government just printing money, so there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape.
But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal, that defies logic, which is why I think you've seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan.
As anyone can tell, Obama is making a point that that particular argument against the public option suffers from a logical defect. In particular, he is claiming (I can't believe I have to spell this out, but you'll see in a second why) that the claim we have a perfectly competitive business environment must therefore be false, because the addition of new competetion would destroy existing competitors. We therefore either have an artificial insurance market which cannot sustain substantial or real market-driven competition (which would be provided by the market driven choice of a not-for-profit model). Or perhaps the private people just don't want competition from a plan more people would choose–in which case we wouldn't have a free market either. Notice, dear readers, that Obama concedes there would be "healthy debates" about the nature of the private plan. That's good–very conciliatory. But if were up to George Will and friends, that debate can be resolved a priori, as a logical matter. Obama, correctly points out that the allegation of the logical flaw is erroneous.
Enter Jake Tapper, journalist:
And, while I appreciate your Spock-like language about the logic of the health care plan and the public plan, it does seem logical to a lot of people that if the government is offering a cheaper health care plan, then lots of employers will want to have their employees covered by that cheaper plan, which will not have to be for-profit, unlike private plans, and may, possibly, benefit from some government subsidies, who knows.
And then their employees would be signed up for this public plan, which would violate what you're promising the American people, that they will not have to change health care plans if they like the plan they have.
First of all, it is not the case that all private plans are for-profit, but besides, Spock-like? For Chrissake. The question deserves a little spock-like criticism of its own. Take the second part, how many employees have control over the health plan their employer chooses for them now–raise your hands.