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Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top GOP politician in the health care
reform debate, is positive that Americans don't need an option to
private, for-profit health insurers. He sees anything like offering consumers Medicare as a voluntary option as a deal-killer
in health reform, according to CQ.com (subscription
barrier). A guy with Grassley's mind-set must also see private
contractors as the saviors of Iraq and AIG as the model for a healthy,
deregulated financial system.

Grassley's "no-public option"
fervor is so throwback that it ought to be on the fringes of the health
reform debate. One reason it's not is that the threat of virtual
filibuster means any matter of substance has to get 60 out of 100 votes
in the Senate. Another is that Sen. Max Baucus, Grassley's Democratic
counterpart on the Senate Finance committee, has gotten hundreds of
thousands of dollars from drug and insurance companies, and isn't
exactly leading the fight for the public insurance option.

Just
so we all know what kind of fight is ahead, and who to blame if
insurers get what they want, here are some excerpts of CQ's
Grassley story:

The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee says the toughest
single issue confronting lawmakers drafting a health care overhaul is
whether to create a government-run insurance option to compete with
private health insurers.

“This is a deal breaker for Republicans if it’s in, and it’s a deal breaker for Democrats if it’s not,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley,
R-Iowa, said Thursday of the public plan option. “Is there a compromise
in between? I don’t see one today. There might be one. If you’re going
to negotiate in good faith, everything’s on the table. But it’s one of
the most difficult things and I don’t see a compromise in that area.”

Grassley then says maybe it's not completely a deal-breaker, even
if he can't see a way around it. He feared it could lead to private
insurance company Armageddon--the "S-word."

Democrats have pushed for a government-run plan to be among the
options available to Americans seeking health insurance, and President
Obama has mentioned it as well. A public plan, as imagined, would
compete with private insurance plans as a way to cover the nation’s 46
million uninsured.

Many Democrats argue that a public plan that competes with private
insurers is the only way to force down overall costs. Republicans,
meanwhile, argue that a public plan would be unfair competition,
eventually driving private insurers out of business.

“I think it’s a step to single-payer,” government-run health care, said Grassley.

The most interesting objection to a completely voluntary public
option is that it would be "unfair competition." The opposite argument,
that government and private companies must compete, is the foundation
for outsourcing jobs from municipal street cleaning to military meals
and upkeep (which hasn't worked out so well--to the point of killing soldiers.)

So which is it, Senator? Is competition a good thing or a bad thing?
And why wouldn't it it be a good thing if insurance companies had to
cut their bloated overhead and executive salaries--maybe even quit
jerking around doctors and patients?