Lieberman shocks no one

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 14, 2009 15:12 EDT
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I’m shamelessly stealing Paul’s joke here.

Lieberman is back to square one with threatening to join the filibuster if the public option and/or the Medicare buy-in are part of the health care reform bill. What’s interesting to me at this point is that for Lieberman, any pretext that he gives a shit about the voting citizens of this country has been thrown out the window completely, and he’s nakedly shilling for insurance companies. And insurance companies have determined that the public option and/or the Medicare buy-in are major threats to their bottom line. Which means that both of these options are a whole lot better than the “OMG SOCIALISM!!!!11!!!!!111!!!” crowd are claiming. If it was impossible for a government bureaucracy to offer a health care plan that’s better than your insurance company’s, then there’s no threat whatsoever from writing one in. The free market will kill the public option, right? But obviously, insurance companies don’t believe this and believe instead that the government should shield them from having to compete on the free market.

What’s been interesting to me in this whole process is how health care reform opponents not only want to have it both ways, but seem to get to have it both ways without many folks pointing out that their two major arguments against giving people a government-owned health care option flatly contradict each other. Either a public option is some sort of hell on earth that no reasonable person should want and it should be excluded to protect fragile citizens from accidentally buying it before they immediately switch over to private insurance from dissatisfaction, or the public option is going to run insurance companies out of business because so many people run the hell away from insurance companies to buy some of that old-fashioned “socialized” medicine. You can’t have it both ways, except of course you can in our looney tunes political environment.

Of course, the reality is going to be much more boring. The reality, if there’s a strong public option, is that a lot of uninsured people would buy it initially, doing absolutely nothing for insurance company profits one way or another. (Which is what they hate—they want the government to force you to buy theirs.) Private insurance companies would still be there to cater to people who don’t want the public option, for whatever reason. (Perhaps they, like Lamar Alexander, are willing to pay a premium to avoid having their precious, precious dollars spend with Other People’s.) Also, odds are that private employers will still use private insurance. In fact, if the public option really does create the threat that private employers will switch to save money, insurance companies will start to do what private delivery services like Fed Ex and UPS do to compete with the post office, which is offer add-ons and other premium service to attract business clients. Everyone wins under that system, except of course insurance companies. But of course, in theory our politicians are here to serve us, not corporate profits. (Now let’s all have a dark, cynical laugh and wonder why we even give a shit.)

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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