Reagan administration economist Art Laffer appeared on CNN’s Newsroom yesterday to debate health care with CAP Senior Fellow Judy Feder. At the height of the debate, Laffer offered a curious argument against health care reform:
LAFFER: I mean, if you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait until you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government
The reality is that we don’t have to “wait” for the government to take over Medicaid and Medicare because they are both already government-run programs.
Many opponents of a public health insurance option across the country don’t realize that we already have a number of highly successful government-run health care programs. At a recent town hall meeting in Simpsonville, South Carolina, Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC) was approached by a constituent who demanded that he keep his “government hands out of Medicare.” Inglis tried to explain to the constituent that his coverage is “being provided by the government,” but the constituent refused to believe it.
Medicare, the government-run single-payer coverage system for the elderly, is particularly popular. A 2009 study by the Commonwealth Foundation found that Medicare recipients reported greater satisfaction with their plans than those in employer-sponsored coverage by wide margins. And Medicare’s status as a government program allows it to run without the need to generate profit, resulting in administrative costs that are a fraction of those of private plans.
Even though conservatives continually attack the government’s ability to run public health plans, they have tacitly admitted the popularity and effectiveness of programs like Medicare. Faced with an amendment by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) that would’ve eliminated Medicare, not a single member of Congress voted for it. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), another conservative who has railed against a government-run health care plan, actually denounced a public option in health care while declaring his support for Medicare on the very same day. Despite the chorus of attacks from the right, the public remains overwhelmingly in favor of the choice of government coverage.
Reflecting on Laffer’s remarks, Paul Krugman laments, “The prejudice against government seems to have become free-floating, unattached to any actual experience.”