Opinion

Public option is alive and well, but hidden

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Opinion,Rob Nagle

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t kidding when she famously said Congress had to pass Obamacare “so you can see what’s in it.” And now as more people find out what’s in the 2,700-plus pages of the law, a steadily lengthening list of President Barack Obama’s promises are being exposed as empty.

Obamacare was going to reduce federal health care spending. Now, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services  in the president’s own Department of Health and Human Services estimates federal health spending will increase at least $311 billion. Obamacare was going to let everybody keep their private health insurance if they chose to. Now Fortune magazine reports that companies across the country are looking at dropping health coverage for their employees because Obamacare makes it profitable to do so. Obamacare was not going to raise insurance premiums. Now another CMMS report says premiums are going up because of Obamacare’s provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.

Here’s another Obamacare myth biting the dust. Remember when Obama and congressional Democrats made a big show of dropping the public option government insurance program that was supposedly going to give private insurers competition and drive rates down? The truth is the public option is alive and well, residing in Section 1334, pages 97-100, of the new health care law. That section gives the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — which presently manages the federal civil service — new responsibilities: establishing and running two entirely new government health insurance programs to compete directly with private insurance companies in every state with coverage for people outside of government.

Quoting the new law, former OPM director Donald Devine notes that it makes the OPM boss a health care czar, with power to set “‘profit margin premiums and other such terms and conditions of coverage as are in the interest of enrollees in such plans.’ That’s open-ended. You can do anything.” Dan Blair, another former OPM director, calls the new program “nothing but a placeholder for the public option.” Indeed, the OPM head is also given the authority to “appoint as many employees” as needed to run the program, and to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to establish and administer it.

As with so much else, Obama and the Democrats did this behind closed doors. They held no public hearings on it and invited no public testimony to estimate its costs or explain its effect on OPM in its traditional role of managing the civil service. The reasons are steadily piling up to repeal this destructive law and replace it and the congressmen who voted for it as soon as possible.

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