Kent Conrad claims U.S. doesn’t need a public option because France doesn’t have one.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has been one of the fiercest opponents of including a new public plan in health care reform legislation, even going so far as to say that it’s a “wasted effort” to even try to get one. At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee this past Tuesday, Conrad made a curious argument against the public option — he cited the French health care system as an example of why we don’t need one:

Let me just conclude for my progressive friends who believe that the only answer to getting costs under control and having universal coverage is by a government-run program. I urge my colleagues to read the book by T.R. Reid, “The Healing of America.”

I had the chance to read it this weekend. He looks at the health-care systems around the world. And what he found is in many countries they have universal coverage. They contain costs effectively. They have high-quality outcomes, in fact higher than ours. They’re not government-run systems in Germany, in Japan, in Switzerland, in France, in Belgium — all of them contain costs, have universal coverage, have very high quality care and yet are not government-run systems.

The truth is, as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein notes, France has had a public insurance system that covers all of its citizens since 1945. Known as Sécurité Sociale (social security), their public insurance program accounts for nearly 75 percent of total health expenditures in France, and people have the option of buying complementary private health insurance if they’d like. In its most recent ranking of health care systems, the World Health Organization concluded that France has the best health care system in the world.

Update:

T.R. Reid, the author Conrad cites, told journalist Russel Mokhiber last spring that “mandating for-profit insurance is not the lesson from other countries in the world,” which is exactly what will happen if the Baucus bill is passed without a public option.(HT): commenter McMetal