Here are two Presidential answers to different questions. The contrast is instructive:

THE PRESIDENT: And I do think that having a public option as part of that would keep the insurance companies honest, because if they’ve got a public plan out there that they’ve got to compete against, as long as it’s not being subsidized by taxpayers, then that will give you some sense of what — sort of a good bargain for what basic health care would be.

… We do think that systems like Medicare are very inefficient right now, but it has nothing to do at the moment with issues of benefits. The inefficiencies all come from things like paying $177 billion to insurance companies in subsidies for something called Medicare Advantage that is not competitively bid, so insurance companies basically get a $177 billion of taxpayer money to provide services that Medicare already provides. And it’s no better — it doesn’t result in better health care for seniors.

On the one hand, the new public option would “keep the insurance companies honest” and be something “that they’ve got to compete against.” On the other hand, where that competition exists today in Medicare, he argues the government should cut payments to private plans that are competing with the Medicare “public option.” This is one reason I fear the public option. A future President could easily make the arguments that President Obama made Tuesday about Medicare Advantage plans, and seek to tilt the playing field toward the public option.

Continue to the next post in this series…

Other posts in this series:

  1. The President’s overpromise that everyone can keep their health plan
  2. Putting the government in charge of your health insurance
  3. Waiting in line
  4. Government-mandated benefits
  5. Preventive care does not save money (in the aggregate)
  6. The House bill would increase short-term, 10th year, and long-term budget deficits
  7. The President was incorrect — AARP opposes the bill
  8. The bills would take Medicare savings needed for solvency and spend them on a new entitlement
  9. Medicare is not a good example of government-run health care because Medicare is fiscally unsustainable
  10. Even if the public option drops out of legislation, other parts of these bills would put private insurance under government control