"Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical."Now, the -- I think that there's going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly that over time they can't compete with the government just printing money, so there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape.
"But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal, that defies logic, which is why I think you've seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan."
I don't know the president personally, but I got the sense he actually enjoyed making this argument. In effect, he said, "If the insurance companies are telling the truth about the service they're providing to their customers, they have nothing to worry about. And insurance companies couldn't possibly be lying, right?"
Indeed, it's been the underlying point all along that usually goes overlooked in media coverage. A public option, critics tell us, would provide a horrible, bureaucratic service for customers, including rationing and long waiting times. But here's the follow-up: if that's true, no one would choose the public option and insurance companies would be just fine for the indefinite future.
Except, of course, insurance companies and their policymaking allies know better. Which is why they're panicking.