|The latest look at the public option comes from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan economic analysts for lawmakers.|
It found that the scaled back government plan in the House bill wouldn't overtake private health insurance. To the contrary, it might help the insurers a little.
The budget office estimated that about 6 million people would sign up for the public option in 2019, when the House bill is fully phased in. That represents about 2% of a total of 282 million Americans under age 65. (Older people are covered through Medicare.)
The overwhelming majority of the population would remain in private health insurance plans sponsored by employers. Others, mainly low-income people, would be covered through an expanded Medicaid program.
To be fair, most people would not have access to the new public plan. Under the House bill, it would be offered through new insurance exchanges open only to those who buy coverage on their own or work for small companies. Yet even within that pool of 30 million people, only 1-in-5 would take the public option.
....Insurers aren't buying the budget office analysis. Asked if it might soften that opposition, industry spokesman Robert Zirkelbach of America's Health Insurance Plans responded with a curt "No."
While a government plan might start out modestly, insurers fear that Congress could change the rules later, opening it up to all people and setting take-it-or-leave payments for hospitals and medical providers, instead of negotiating, as the House bill calls for.
For the same reason, employer groups also remain wary. Big companies don't want to lose control of their health care budgets and instead have the government send them a tax bill.
"That cost is going to come back to you one way or another ... and it's coming back in the way of taxes and liabilities," said Eastman Kodak's chief executive, Antonio M. Perez, speaking for the Business Roundtable. "We just don't believe that there are miracles out there."
Government makes the rules and they will change it in favor of themselves.