Ask any employer that provides their workers with health insurance what they will do if the government offers every American a "government option" for their health care. Whether the employees want it or not, if the feds offer every American the option of buying a health insurance policy from the federal government, employers will be immediately begin sending out notices that health care is no longer a company-provided benefit and directing their workers to the 1-800 number for the new federal plan. The boss may even include a slight pay hike with the notice as a nod to the enormous savings he or she will be achieving by off-loading the cost of employee health care, but that bump --if it comes at all-- will be a short term analgesic that will mask the onset of long-term pain. The "government option" will quickly become the single payer nightmare that is Canadian health care, and Americans will look back at the summer of 2009 and wonder when this became the American way of medicine.
This is the great head-fake of the health "reform" debate taking place behind closed doors in D.C. Veterans of the 1993 Hillarycare debate know that "single payer" scares most Americans and with good reason. The vast majority of Americans are used to picking their doctors and getting great care in relatively rapid fashion. We don't like the idea of waiting months or even years for "elective" surgeries, and we abhor the idea of having only a handful of doctors available from which to chose our provider.
If the "government option" emerges from the high-stakes negotiations under way right now, it will be the "reform" that swallows the entire system. It is no secret that large companies want to dump the responsibility for providing health insurance to their employees. The costs are high and going higher because American workers want the best health care available. Unions demand it in negotiations, and businesses competing for top drawer talent must offer health plans that appeal to the cream of the workforce, plans which are then available to all levels of the employee network.
But if the mirage of a government-backed plan suddenly appears (complete with a vast new bureaucracy to enforce the rules and calculate the discounts for those at or near the poverty line) embattled employers will see the opportunity to escape en masse from their expensive obligations to their workforce. The big insurance companies may survive a while, but competing against the government dooms most of them to an obviously uncompetitive position vis-a-vis any federal plan.