Trump health official bashes public option as no better than 'Medicare for All'

Trump health official bashes public option as no better than 'Medicare for All'
© Greg Nash

A top Trump administration health official on Monday took aim at the idea of a “public option” health plan, which moderate Democrats have proposed as an alternative to “Medicare for All.”

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma on Monday said a government-backed public option would promote unfair competition, and would drive private insurers out of the market.

“The public option is a Trojan horse with a single-payer hiding inside,” Verma said in a speech to the Better Medicare Alliance.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It would use the force of government price-setting to crowd private insurers out of the marketplace altogether, and achieve the true policy goal of a government-run single-payer health care system,” Verma said.

Verma is already an outspoken critic of Medicare for All, but the speech marked her first time slamming the public option. 

Many of the more moderate 2020 Democratic presidential candidates — chief among them former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump knocks Romney as 'Democrat secret asset' in new video Giuliani asked State Dept. to grant visa for ex-Ukraine official at center of Biden allegations: report Perry won't comply with subpoena in impeachment inquiry MORE — are promoting a public option as a better, less disruptive idea than Medicare for All.

Instead of eliminating private insurance and putting everyone in the country under a single-payer plan, advocates say a public option would compete with private plans to give people the best prices. 

Supporters say the public option is better than Medicare for All because if people like their private plan, they can keep it, but they also will have the choice of buying into the public option. 

Verma, however, said both a public option and Medicare for All will hurt patients.

“The secret of the public option is that it’s only cheaper because it uses the force of government to strong-arm doctors and hospitals into accepting below-market payment rates,” Verma said. 

“Access will be compromised for patients, and reimbursement cuts in the public plan will shift more pressure to employer-sponsored plans to make up the difference, driving up costs for 180 million Americans with private insurance.”