Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell observed, on Face the Nation, that "if the government is in the insurance business there won't be any other insurers, it's inevitable." His acknowledgement that the private health insurance industry would be “not be able to compete with a government option” is, for him, a devastating criticism, apparently based on his belief that the competition generated by our present, capitalistic, health care, system, is more important than the possibility that universal health care would be more efficient, less expensive, and more accessible that the present system.
Neither the philosophy nor the practice of capitalism is compatible with universal health care. Capitalism rewards financial success, and, obviously, health insurance companies that are driven to maximize their profits can most easily do so by compromising the quality of their service, selectively choosing whom to insure, and finding ways to limit or deny claims. These capitalistic incentives have succeeded in giving us what we have today, a health care system that is of generally high quality for a diminishing number of people able to afford it. Unless and until a meaningful public option is available in which positive health outcomes and universal access replace the profit motive as the driving force of the system, we will only be tinkering around the edges of the problem.
President Obama, strategically light years ahead of the Mitch McConnell’s in the congress, some of whom are Democrats, makes the point by packaging the “public option” as one choice among many, and putting the onus on the present, failed, system to defend itself. Unfortunately, given the rhetoric and posturing of political maneuvering, it is impossible to know the depth of his commitment to the public option. It would be painful indeed to see meaningful health care reform sacrificed to some notion of political expediency.