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Lining Up Against a 'Public'/Gov't Option in Health Care

3:16 PM, Jun 11, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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When President Obama speaks to the American Medical Association Monday to pitch his vision for health care reform, he will have a lot of work to do. The group of 250,000 doctors has announced it is against a so-called "public option" for government-run health care, which Obama sees as central to his reform efforts.

"The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans."

If private insurers are pushed out of the market, the group said, "the corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers."

Health care and insurance providers have been reticent about possible reforms until now, fearing that they would be cut out of negotiations in the Democrat-controlled Congress by voicing opposition to the controversial "public option," but as details of possible legislation leak, the AMA isn't the only group that has found its voice:

America's Health Insurance Plans, a lobby for insurers, said Tuesday that the government plan proposed by some Senate Democrats could "dismantle employer-based coverage and significantly increase costs for those who remain in private coverage."

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) means for them to shut their mouths, real quick ($):

Top aides to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called a last-minute, pre-emptive strike on Wednesday with a group of prominent Democratic lobbyists, warning them to advise their clients not to attend a meeting with Senate Republicans set for Thursday.

Russell Sullivan, the top staffer on Finance, and Jon Selib, Baucus' chief of staff, met with a bloc of more than 20 contract lobbyists, including several former Baucus aides.
"They said, ‘Republicans are having this meeting and you need to let all of your clients know if they have someone there, that will be viewed as a hostile act,'" said a Democratic lobbyist who attended the meeting.

"Going to the Republican meeting will say, ‘I'm interested in working with Republicans to stop health care reform,'" the lobbyist added...

But with Baucus' office still warning dissenters that anyone who makes their opposition public could be permanently excluded from future negotiations, the groups representing businesses, health care providers, hospitals and similar stakeholders are still wavering on whether to voice their concerns publicly.

One Democratic official with a distinct lact of self-awareness calls the Republicans' audacious attempts to hold meetings in the face of Democratic threats "disheartening."

"While Democrats and many Republicans are working collaboratively to reform health care, a small group of Republicans appear all too eager to derail this promising, bipartisan effort," this source said. "It's politics as usual, it's disheartening and it's a shame."

Given the potential danger of being elbowed out of health care negotiations by Democrats who are already openly bullying private-sector opponents, it speaks to just how dangerous those speaking out think the "public option" really is. Our friends on the left would tell you it's doctors' insatiable thirst for money that compels them to oppose health care reform. But if one actually listens to the doctors, one will find they're in favor of some reforms (a requirement for those who can afford insurance to buy it) but feel that a government-run option would be detrimental to doctors and patients.