Two weeks ago, in a post about "Medicare Open to All," I argued that a while from some perspectives a public program could be seen as an unfair competitor for private insurers, it could also play the role of "downfield blocker" in making tough choices about encouraging real price competition and bringing back some of the desirable innovations from the "managed care" era.
I wondered if I was being a hopelessly naive academic egghead in taking this position. Perhaps I was, but in "A Public 'Fix' for Health Care Need not Abandon the Market" in today's Washington Post, business columnist Steven Pearlstein makes the same argument.
The public sector role in the U.S. health care system is a very polarized topic. Single payer advocates want a public national health plan. Market advocates attack the idea as "socialized medicine" and call for more, not less, reliance on market forces. For the moment it looks as if policy makers are looking for ways to bridge the gap between the two camps. To understand the policy dynamics better Pearlstein's article is worth a look.