Terry Jeffrey

The current debate over whether the national health care plan being developed in Congress should or should not include a so-called "public option" -- a health insurance plan set up by the government to compete with private health insurance providers -- misses the point.

In reality, the entirety of the congressional health care plan is a "public option." It is all about one thing: putting government in control of health care.

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In doing so, it will necessarily increase the government's influence over some of the most morally significant decisions you will ever make about your own life and the lives of your loved ones. It will permanently diminish the freedom of your children and your grandchildren.

It will change America for the worse -- perhaps forever.

The main instrument Congress and the administration will use to expand the government's power over your health care is not a public health insurance provider, but federal subsidies.

Both the Senate and House versions of the health care bill would eventually put most Americans on the dole, converting middle-class Americans into lifelong welfare recipients and government dependents. It will do this with or without a public option.

Both the House and Senate bills set up a new government-regulated health insurance market -- called an "exchange" by the House -- where people can purchase approved health insurance plans (including, as currently drafted, the "public option") using "credits" that the government will provide to all families making up to 400 percent of the poverty level.

These health insurance plans must offer a minimum benefits package dictated by the government, and people using federal "credits" to buy health insurance will only be allowed to purchase the plans that are part of the government exchange.

"Creates affordability credits to ensure that people with incomes up to 400 percent of federal poverty have affordable health coverage," says an analysis of the bill published by the House Ways and Means Committee. "These credits are phased out according to a schedule defined in the act as individual and family incomes up to 400 percent of poverty and the credits apply only to Exchange-participating plans."

Now, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal poverty level for a family of two is currently $14,570. That means a husband and wife with no children who earn up to $58,280 (400 percent of the poverty level) would be eligible for federal health insurance subsidies.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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