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Now that voters apparently have told Washington they want the full implementation of Obamacare, the largest tax increase ever for U.S. citizens, critics are noting that the fine print includes an option for a taxpayer-subsidized offering that would compete directly with private insurance – likely demolishing the industry.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney had promised to repeal Obamacare before the taxes and liabilities set up by Democrats kicked in.
A provision for federal competition with private insurance was given little attention, because it was not scheduled to enacted for some time.
However, with Tuesday’s election results, there appears to be no hurdle to the full imposition of Obamacare’s massive taxes and restrictions, according to analysts.
And that raises prospects that been on the back burner, such as the possibility Obamacare would lead to a single-payer, national program that controls all of health care.
The Galen Institute, a public policy research group working on policies that help the health sector through individual freedom, consumer choice and competition, has raised the issue again.
Bob Moffit, a health policy expert with the Heritage Foundation who has been a leader in the fight against a “public plan” option in Obamacare, “believes, correctly, this will quickly wipe out private sector competition and lead us into a single-payer, government-run health system,” the institute said.
‘While the public option was not specifically included in the health law, the Obama administration is well on its way to creating it anyway,” the institute said.
Moffit told the institute he had received many inquiries about the issue, so he explained the basics of what is to come.
“In January of 2014, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will sponsor two national plans to compete against private health insurance in every state of the union. It has been our view that this will establish the foundation of a government monopoly in health insurance. … There is thus a re-emergence of the ‘public option’ debate,” he wrote.
He cited his own work on the controversial question at the time Obama was ramming the Obamacare legislation through Congress.
In a report citing the “new – and troubling – powers for OPM,” he wrote at the time:
“Despite media reports to the contrary, the ‘public plan’ for government-run health care is alive and well and traveling through the legislative process under a false identity in the giant Senate Health Bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). During the final stages of the Senate floor debate on this bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., amended it with a 383-page ‘Manager’s Amendment’ that removed the earlier provisions for a ‘public plan’ and substituted new provisions that would expand the authority of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency that runs the federal civil service, to sponsor health plans. The Senate bill, with the Manager’s Amendment, passed the Senate on December 24, 2009. In effect, this Senate action is not the death of the public plan, but a reincarnation.”
Moffit said the OPM in a year will field a special team of health insurance plans to “compete” against private health plans in government health insurance exchanges, “potentially in every state in the country.”
“The main reason these government-sponsored health plans would exist would be to compete directly against private health plans on a national basis. They would be the only health plans in America that would be permitted, under the Senate bill, to compete on a national or ‘multi-state’ basis – they would enjoy an exclusive franchise. No other private health plans would enjoy that scope of competition,” the analysis continued.
“It is another version of a ‘public plan’ but the provision creating it has never been subject to a congressional hearing or the normal processes of legislative deliberation,” the analysis said.
“As plainly conceded by the most ardent liberal ‘public option’ champions in Congress, such as Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the ultimate objective of the ‘public option’ is the erosion of private health insurance and its replacement by a single-payer health care system.”
Therein lies a potential danger for Americans, the analysis noted, because the OPM’s power “is enormous.”
The law, for example, does not have any language setting limits on how OPM would impose “stricter standards on benefits, or from setting the rates for plans … OPM can add or subtract benefits, or define how they are to be structured and delivered,” the analysis said.
Already, for example, OPM under President Ronald Reagan slashed health benefits for programs for federal employees to stay with the budget allocation in 1981. Such actions in the future could be applied to Americans in general, the analysis suggests.
Then, under Bill Clinton, the OPM was ordered to add specific coverages to programs.
“In carrying out the administration’s policy agenda, or in bowing to congressional pressure, OPM, under its broad authority to set benefits, can and will mandate benefits or procedures, irrespective of the objection of medical professionals to their clinical effectiveness or medical necessity,” the analysis said.
Reid’s substitution also exempts his plans from state requirements and provides special advantages for the federal programs, essentially putting a thumb on the scale for any “competition.”
The report said OPM could simply set up the multi-state plans “as a public option”
that essentially could be described as “a vehicle for an enormous concentration of government power over the financing and delivery of their health care.”