ACRU

Ken Blackwell: Obama’s “Government Option”–Alligator or Anaconda?

This column originally appeared on Townhall.com on July 24, 2009.

A key element of President Obama’s plan for a government takeover of health care is to create what he calls “the government option.” He wants his government option to compete with private insurers. Congressman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) says that this government option will compete with private insurers the way an alligator “competes” with ducks. It’s a pretty safe bet that the ducks always lose.

House Democrats are working up a slightly different plan. It’s part of the bill they’re moving through Congress very quickly and trying to pass before the August recess. They know that the more Americans find out about plans for their government takeover of health care, the more resistance they will face. Former Sen. Tom Daschle, the President’s first choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services before tax problems ended his nomination, is said to be very worried that if a bill is not sent to the President’s desk before the August recess, the whole plan might have to be re-framed.

Given this mad dash to enact a bill, a statement President Obama made the other night is truly stunning. He was on a conference call with liberal bloggers. One of these bloggers–clearly a backer of ObamaCare–brought up an article in Investors Business Daily that claims under Section 102 of the House health care bill (H.R.3200) would outlaw private insurance. The blogger wanted the President to give a strong rebuttal to the IBD article’s claims, but what he got instead was this incredible statement: “I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.”

What? He’s “not familiar” with the central provision of the bill he’s flogging Congress to pass? He’s “not familiar” with the section of the House Bill that those who are familiar with say will regulate private insurers out of business?

The Heritage Foundation is familiar with Section 102. They’ve partnered with the respected health consulting organization The Lewin Group to research how many Americans would be forced into the “government option.” Here’s what they found:

* Despite Administration assurances to the contrary, 83.4 million people would lose their private insurance coverage.

* Nearly 90 million who are currently covered by an employer-sponsored health plan would be shifted into the government plan.

* Contrary to what the Obama campaign said about costs and taxes, average Americans would see their premiums rise as much as $460 yearly.

President Obama’s candid admission that he was “not familiar” with a central provision of a major bill being marked up by his closest allies in Congress is truly amazing. If not exactly the alligator Congressman Pence was describing in referring to “government options,” this section could be described as an anaconda. It might not immediately eat up its competitors, but it would squeeze the life out of them by excessive regulations they cannot afford to put in place and survive. Only after squeezing the private insurers to death does this Section 102 anaconda swallow them up. Under this provision, your “private insurer” would remain as private as GM and AIG are today.

Some things just don’t work in politics. If you’re in the middle of an intense presidential campaign and there’s an economic meltdown, beginning in the mortgage industry, it does not work to say you don’t know how many houses you own. My friend John McCain found that out to his sorrow.

To say you’re “not familiar” with a major legislative provision of your own Administration’s Number One priority is infinitely worse. It seems to indicate a troubling approach to transforming one of the most expensive and essential elements of American life: The way we, and those we love, get medical care.

The President is blessed by an almost supernatural calm. His disposition gives assurance in any crisis. Yet in this case, his calm is like that of Capt. Edward Smith of the White Star Line. Captain Smith was completely unflappable as his great ship sped across the silent seas. He was totally confident that he could speedily bypass any threat from an iceberg on that moonless night in April, 1912. Mr. Obama’s government takeover of health care may be headed for a collision more shattering even than that of the Titanic.

The wise word to the President is the same as those to Capt. Smith: SLOW DOWN. Proceed with caution. And take the time to understand your own plan, one you are pressing upon the American people with an intensity and insistency weve rarely seen in recent history.