Lindsey Graham: Public Provision of Health Insurance is Terrible, Except When It’s Popular


Lindsey Graham talks to Ezra Klein about his opposition to the creation of a “public option” for people currently languishing on the individual health insurance market:

My belief is that no private-sector entity can survive over a long period of time competing against the government. The public option will be written by politicians. It will be generous. Nobody in my business worries about the bottom line. Eventually, the public option will dominate the marketplace because the political forces in the public sector are different than the economic forces in the private sector. Eventually, the private sector will give way.

Ezra asks the natural followup question: If government provision of health insurance is so terrible, why not scrap Medicare?

If you could start from scratch, would you scrap Medicare?

No! Medicare was a safety net for those seniors who couldn’t afford coverage. I buy into the idea of everyone having health coverage. You can have the public-private partnership in retirement. You can have a government-run system for those who are needy. But above that it’s best for the private sector to cover people. There’s still a government role. Look at the Wyden-Bennett bill. The government helps people buy their health care in the private sector. To me, that’s proper. I don’t mind helping people be covered in retirement. We’re not going to get rid of Medicare and there’s no reason to get rid of it. We just need to be sure it’s a well-run program and we can afford it.

This is nonsense. Medicare is not a means-tested program. It covers all senior citizens. It’s not a program of narrowly targeted subsidies to the very poor. It’s a public sector health insurance program. And Graham’s ideology clearly commits him to condemning it. But he doesn’t want to because it’s too popular.