The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Dale Crafts of Lisbon was the Republican nominee for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race in 2020.
As Maine and the rest of the country continue to face serious challenges driven by the pandemic, it is inevitable that the future of our health care system will remain an important issue. Few people would disagree that our health care system needs improvements, and Mainers need access to quality, affordable health coverage options. But a new government-run health insurance system, like the one recently proposed by some politicians in Washington, will create more problems than it solves.
For small-business owners like myself, the public option could make it much more difficult to provide employees with quality health benefits. Under the public option, private insurers would likely eventually exit the marketplace, meaning fewer private health care plans would be available and many individuals and families who are satisfied with their current health plans would no longer have access to them.
A recent study found that by 2050, 70 percent of state marketplaces would no longer offer a single private insurance option should a public option be implemented. It is essential that we maintain consumer choice in health care plans. For Mainers who have specific or unique health care needs, in particular, a one-size-fits-all option can never be the answer.
A public option not only risks access to individualized options in health insurance, but for Mainers who live in more rural areas, the public option could reduce access to quality care and providers. According to the same recent study, the public option could increase revenue losses for hospitals in rural areas by more than 40 percent.
Many rural hospitals already operate under thin margins. As private insurers could be forced to exit the marketplace due to the public option, hospitals could see a decrease in revenue, and some in rural areas will struggle to remain open. The closures of hospitals in these areas, where a hospital may be the only health care provider for miles, could force rural Mainers to travel even farther to reach the closest provider. In other words, the public option would not only fail to improve access to care, it could actually make it worse.
And the unaffordable costs of the public option would not be contained to just hospitals and health care providers — they would hit each and every taxpayer, whether they enroll in the government system or not. According to another recent study, a government-controlled health care system like the public option could cause Washington to increase taxes on families by thousands of dollars each year in order to pay for the program. For those who remain on private coverage, the public option could also mean a huge increase in premiums.
Changes to our health care system should not make insurance less accessible and more expensive.
Maine and America can do better than a one-size-fits-all government-controlled health insurance system. I urge our state’s representatives in Washington to work together to improve our current health care system and make care more affordable, not create an unaffordable new government system like the public option that will only create more problems.