In his September 9th address to Congress and the American people, President Obama acknowledged that, “my health care proposal has…been attacked by some who oppose reform as a ‘government takeover’ of the entire health care system.”

The President attempted to refute this claim and defended the idea of a public option as a means to enhance competition amongst private insurance companies. The President emphasized that the intention behind creating a public option was not to put insurers out of business, but to hold them accountable.

But health reform, with a public option, would amount to a Washington takeover of the current system. It would likely put a majority of Americans in public coverage and would concentrate unprecedented power in the federal government. In addition to rising enrollment in Medicare and expansions in Medicaid, reform with a so-called public option could result in the dependence of 74% of Americans on government controlled health care.

Giving the government monopoly control over health care coverage will force doctors and hospitals to accept federally-dictated reimbursement rates to an even greater extent than they already do with Medicare and Medicaid. As Heritage’s Dennis Smith puts it, “Federal funding will not just affect the market; it will become the market–doctors and hospitals will not be able to opt out or avoid it.” Under bills in Congress, doctors participating in Medicare could be required to participate in the new public plan, which will dictate reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals. With 246 million Americans in public coverage, health care providers will have no choice but to comply with the dictates of the federal government if they choose to stay in business. If this isn’t a government takeover, what is?

What is more, government’s reach will extend well beyond the 74% of Americans enrolled in public coverage. The 89 million Americans remaining in private insurance will also be burdened by new government rules and regulations. While their health insurance may be private in name it will be defined and controlled by the government at the federal level. Under the legislation in both the House and the Senate, an individual mandate will dictate what insurance must look like and what is and is not an acceptable level of coverage. Individuals and families with plans that do not meet the new federal standards will be required by law to pay a tax penalty.
Though the President and congressional Democrats continue to insist that they are not attempting a Washington takeover of health care, their claims fly in the face of the facts.

Co-authored by Greg D’Angelo.