Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lewin report on the public option - PNHP’s official Blog

No details have been released by either Congress or the administration about the specifics of a potential public insurance option that could be offered in competition within a market of private health plans. Nevertheless, to provide an analysis of how such a plan might work, The Lewin Group used certain assumptions to prepare this simulation.

Under this analysis, hospitals would be paid 30 percent less than the reimbursement rates of private insurers, and physicians would be paid 20 percent less. Using these and other assumptions, premiums for the public plan would be 30 percent less than comparable coverage by private plans.

Supporters of the public option are likely to claim that it is an essential component of reform since it will lower the cost of insurance while expanding coverage to over 100 million more people.

Opponents of the public option are already claiming that the government would be an unfair competitor to the private plans because of its ability to dictate rates that are lower than what the private plans must charge.

This simulation may very well also increase the opposition by physicians and hospital administrators because of concern about the possibility of shifting large numbers of patients from the private plans to the government plan with its considerably lower reimbursement rates. In the heat of the debate, it may be forgotten that these fee reductions were an assumption made by the authors of this report for simulation purposes, and not a feature of any actual legislative proposal.

Unfortunately, this study only fuels a debate that has diverted us from the discussion that we should be having. Instead of arguing over a controversial, yet-to-be-defined measure that cannot possibly lead to the efficiencies, equity and effectiveness of the single payer model, we should be discussing what actually would work - true single payer reform.

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