On Saturday, the conservative editors of the Wall Street Journal editorial page used their weekly Fox News show to attack every aspect of the health care reform that President Obama is trying to work through Congress. To criticize the idea of public insurance plan, assistant editorial page editor James Freeman claimed that health reform in Massachusetts shows what would happen with a public option:
GIGOT: All right, James, let me ask you about this — the public option. Because the president says, Look, all this is, is going to compete with the private plans, keep them honest. The insurers are making a lot of money right now. We need to keep them honest.
FREEMAN: Right, and I think the beauty of this is we don’t need to guess or estimate or just posit what might happen, because the people of Massachusetts since 2006 have been running the experiment for all of us, and we can go to school on it.
Gigot: Thanks to Mitt Romney, former Republican governor.
Freeman: That’s right.
Gigot: Or no thanks to Mitt Romney.
Freeman: And it’s very clear what happens. Private insurance goes away, more people go on the public plan, costs explode, more costs go onto small business, and people lose their jobs or they get salary freezes.
There’s one problem with Freeman’s analysis: Massachusetts doesn’t have a public plan. As former MA governor Mitt Romney, who implemented the plan, told CNSNews last month, “Our plan did not include a government insurance plan.” “Instead, we relied entirely on private market-based insurance plans to help people get insurance,” said Romney.
Instead of a public plan, Massachusetts uses an employer mandate and subsidies for people under 300 percent of the federal poverty level unable to afford coverage. Massachusetts has successfully expanded coverage to all but 2.6 percent of its population, but unfortunately, the program deferred “until another day any serious effort to control the state’s runaway health costs.” Proponents argue that a public plan would be key to cost control.