This past Monday, the White House co-hosted an invitation only health care forum with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles Times the event “was clearly programmed to showcase the broad goals” President Barack Obama has on health care, but “was light on details” with “no discussion of how to achieve those goals.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that back in Washington, Democrats Agree on a Health Plan that includes “a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance.” Considering the cost and consequences of a public health plan, it should be no surprise the White House chose not to promote the idea at their health care forum.

Independent and conservative health care experts have long warned that a public plan would further “crowd out” ever dwindling private health care options and only fast track government’s creeping control of health care. A new study released Monday by the Lewin Group, a healthcare policy research firm, provides some numbers to back up this point.

According to the Lewin Group, “If the public plan is opened to all employers…at Medicare payment levels we estimate that about 131.2 million people would enroll in the public plan. The number of people with private health insurance would decline by 119.1 million people. This would be a two-thirds reduction in the number of people with private coverage (currently 170 million people).” The study also examined what the proposed plan might do to provider reimbursement rates, finding that if current Medicare payment rates were to be used for a public plan option, physicians would see their net income drop by $33 billion dollars, and hospitals would see their revenue fall by $36 billion.

And what happens when physicians and other health care providers see their income drop? Americans lose access to health care. As part of their ‘Retirement’ series, the New York Times reported last week that under the current levels of government controlled health care the American College of Physicians estimates that by 2025 there will be 35,000 to 45,000 fewer doctors than the population needs … and that less and less of these doctors are willing to accept new Medicare patients.

If, as Lewin’s research suggests, two-thirds of those currently covered under private insurance were to instead be insured under a new public plan, we would find ourselves well on our way toward a single-payer government run health care system, where the government is the universal “single payer.” Heritage fellow Robert Book describes the devastating effects that would have to health care access and quality of care:

The establishment of a “single payer” health care system would inevitably result in lower payments for physician and other health care providers. The immediate effect of having a single (”stingy”) payer would be lower incomes for physicians and a reduction in the supply of active physicians, thereby impairing access to health care for all patients. However, the result of “single/stingy payer” health care will not only be lower incomes for physicians now but reduced access and lower quality health care for future generations as well.

Quick Hits: