Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) has argued that you can’t reform the health care system without forcing private insurers to compete with a new public option. “If we only get community rating and guaranteed issue that’s great insurance reform, but that is not health care reform and nobody should mistake it,” Dean explained.
But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has recently indicated that the public plan is just a bargaining chip to “encourage the private health insurance industry to move in the direction it knows it should move toward — namely, health insurance reform, which means eliminating pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, modified community rating.”
Today, during an event at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, ThinkProgress caught up with Baucus and asked the senator if Dean was wrong in insisting that a public health plan is essential to achieving a more efficient health care system:
Let’s see what we come up with. I think we can accomplish the objective [Dean] wants without [a public plan]. We can, we’re going to have to work on it. But we may have to have it, [Dean] may be right. Just don’t know yet.
Dean believes that the public plan would improve system efficiency and quality, but Baucus is more interested in using the program as a political tool to bring insurers to the table and keep single payer advocates at the table. The public, however, supports the public option. According to a poll by Lake Research, “73% of voters want everyone to have a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan while only 15% want everyone to have private insurance.”
During the question and answer session, Baucus reiterated that the public option is a bargaining chip to win concessions from the insurance industry: