As the battle over health care continues, the usual pattern of political talking points has emerged. Each side has its own set of bullet points that it fires out at its opponents and rational discussion is kept to a minimum.
One point made by the side against government health care is that the care will be awful. The usual argument is that anything the government does is big, costly, and ineffective (at best). This is supported by various anecdotes from other countries and analogies with other government programs.
A second point is that government based health care will unfairly destroy competition and this is unfair to the insurance companies.
Not surprisingly, those who are not against health care point out the apparent inconsistency: if the government health care is going to be so awful, then it cannot unfairly destroy the competition. After all, if it is bad as they claim, then only the sort of folks who buy viagra from spammers or send their bank account numbers to Nigerian princes will buy it.
It is, of course, possible to reconcile these claims. After all, if the government mandates that people buy their health care from the government or if the government applies pressure to companies and individuals to buy into this, then they can be unfair competitors even if the product is truly awful. After all, some very awful products have been able to do well because those selling them are able to use unfair advantages. The government certainly has the power to push an inferior product on a large enough scale to constitute an unfair advantage.
Of course, the Obama administration’s position seems to be that they will not force people to give up their current insurance. So, people who already find their insurance acceptable or who prefer the private health insurance over the state plan will be free to buy that coverage. If this becomes part of the plan, then those who are against the plan will seem to have little to worry about: if private health care is vastly better than the incredibly awful state health care, then only complete idiots will buy it. This will mean a fairly small number of folks on the government plan thus keeping the cost lower than expected and leaving the current sort of competition in place (that is, you can buy any health insurance you can afford that happens to be available where you live).