Friday, September 11, 2009

A Bulletproof Public Option

The best way to pass a public option is to make a “for profit” public option With the country deeply in debt, it is politically dangerous to vote against a way for the government to make money without raising taxes. Anyone who does so will be attacked for putting corporations – and their political donations – ahead of the citizens who want to purchase the healthcare options. What’s worse is they will be putting corporate profits ahead of government solvency. You can’t rail against the deficit and then vote against a way for the government to help close it.

What is needed is a good name for the plan. “For-Profit Public Option” is a bad name, since it is too close to “Non-Profit Public Option”. I’m not sure what the ideal name is, but here are some possibilities.

1) Money Making Public Option

2) Profit Generating Public Option

3) Deficit Reducing Public Option

4) Capitalistic Public Option

5) Profitable Public Option

6) Deficit Fighting Public Option

Once the government is making money off the plan, it really is a fair fight with the private insurance companies. True the government has the advantage of instant brand recognition and can use its huge market power to negotiate better prices, but such are the advantages of all large players in a market economy. It’s capitalism at its best, and is no different than Wal-Mart profitably gobbling up another market segment.

As a protection measure, let each state determine if they want the “Deficit Reducing Public Option” offered within it. And since the government is making money in the states that offer it, it should share some of those profits with those states.

As a further protection mechanism, it can be mandated that the “Profitable Public Option” gain no more than 20% of the national health insurance market. Once it gets close to that percentage it will have to raise prices to a level which keeps it below that threshold.

Of the names I came up with thus far, I prefer “Deficit Fighting Public Option”. It makes it clear that the purpose of this plan to fight the deficit, so anyone opposed to it is in favor of bankrupting the country. That’s a highly unfair and partisan way of viewing it - which is why it can be politically effective. If those in favor of any public option can be accused of socialism, then those opposed to a way to make money can be accused of wanting the government to “beg and borrow” until it declares bankruptcy.

I don’t know why those in favor of a public option have not taken this approach yet. By adding a few percentage points of profit margin to their “revenue neutral program” they can make it “revenue positive”. This can make a public option “bulletproof”: so much harder to shoot down, and nearly impossible to vote against.

I think what’s lacking is the right name. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

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