Michael Bloomberg, the self-made billionaire and one of the 20 richest people on the planet, joins Wal-Mart in support of a government-run health-insurance option as an alternative to private plans:
“Choice and competition are almost always in the best interests of our economy. When I started a small business 28 years ago, there were other companies that offered financial information to banks and businesses. But we found a way to do it better. That gave our customers more options, and it strengthened the marketplace of financial information.
The public option in health care — which President Obama is supporting as a central part of his proposed reforms — grows out of the same idea. If you like the coverage you have, you keep it. But if you don’t have coverage – or if you lose your coverage – you’d have another option. And virtually everyone agrees that a well-managed public option has real potential to provide — for less money — the same benefits that private insurers provide.”
As Bloomberg notes, a public option will likely have lower administrative costs. “We know this based on our experience with Medicare, which spends a lower percentage of every dollar on overhead than private insurance plans do, on average.” Furthermore, “94 percent of metropolitan areas in the United States are dominated by one company or a small group of companies. This kind of anti-competitive concentration protects private insurers from ever having to feel the urgency to provide more for less. When you don’t have to find ways to cut costs and produce a better product, you tend not to do it. The public option offers the opportunity to force the system to innovate, evolve and improve.”
In its own letter, signed jointly with the Center for American Progress and the Service Employees International Union, Wal-Mart lays out the business-case necessity for reform:
… few businesses will be able to keep up with the pace at which premiums are rising.
Premiums are expected to rise by 20 percent in less than four years, according to research by professors at Harvard University — costing 3.5 million workers their jobs, and cutting insured workers’ average annual incomes by $1,700.
Fiscally, the growing cost of health care is poised to drive our federal budget over a cliff. A recent report
by the Senate Finance Committee found that by 2017, “health care expenditures are expected to consume nearly 20 percent of the GDP.” ….
With smart, targeted policies, we can create a financially-viable health care system that enables workers
to change jobs without losing their care, and allows businesses to become more nimble. Health care costs will no longer stand in the way of their ability to retool for the 21st century.”
The American people are also coming around. In a new Quinnipiac poll, Americans were asked: “Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?”
The result: 69% support, 26% oppose.
That echoes findings in a CBS/NYT poll, which reports that “a clear majority of Americans — 72 percent — support a government-sponsored health care plan to compete with private insurers… Most also think the government would do a better job than private industry at keeping down costs and believe that the government should guarantee health care for all Americans.
Even a poll by the corporate-funded Employee Benefit Research Institute found strong support. In response to its question — “Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose … creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase?” — 83 percent strongly or somewhat supported that option.
The political fight is far from over. But a clear majority of the American people and increasing numbers in the business community — at least, those outside the health-care industry itself — are ready for dramatic change.