Public Schools and the Public Option

Imagine a private school where students sat in a math class for weeks misbehaving and learning nothing. Imagine that school gets on TV news because the administrators suspended the young lady who blew the whistle by taking a cell phone video and giving it to her mom who confronted them. Do you think that school would have enough students to start the next school year?

Well, this happened at a public high school in the SF Bay Area:

A freshman at Clayton Valley High School in Concord, California says that’s just what she had to endure in algebra as her classmates went wild.

“People smoking marijuana in the classroom. They smoke cigarettes.” Arielle said. “There was one kid who peed in a bottle and threw it across the room.”

Clayton Valley High School is a public high school, and I have no doubt that it will open with just as many students next year as it did this year. When parents pay for an education, they absolutely will not tolerate a school run like Clayton Valley HS. When the state provides an education for free, a vast majority of parents will generally take what they can get and call it good enough. They might picket and protest for improvement, but they won’t take their kids out of the school.

What does this have to do with health care? The public option being created as part of “ObamaCare” is rather similar to public schools, in that it is designed to undercut private health insurance on the basis of price:

The Lewin Group crunched the numbers through their health care model and found that premiums for the public option plan would be 30 to 40 percent lower than private plans.

A price difference of that magnitude would lead employers to throw their employees into the ObamaCare option:

Overall, the Lewin Group estimates that if Medicare reimbursement rates are imposed, the number of Americans with private health insurance would decline by almost 120 million, leaving only 50 million Americans in the private insurance market.

That would leave approximately 15% of the population in non-government health care, just slightly more than the percentage of students that go to private school. At that point, ObamaCare will have similar monopoly power to the public schools. I expect abuses and incompetence similar to that captured by Arielle Moore at Clayton Valley High when the public option achieves its monopoly power. The scary difference is that instead of not learning algebra, the people who have to suffer that abuse and incompetence will be missing out on life-saving medical treatments.

A human life is too important to waste on government health care.

Update: John Calfee compares ObamaCare to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the WSJ. Yet another sterling example of how we don’t want our health care managed.

  • Lawrence Dean

    Your argument concerning a public health care option is silly and uninformed. We have government financing for health care right now. It occurs when those who can’t pay for health insurance go to the Emergency Room (ER) room for an illness (a very expensive way to see a doctor). By government mandate they can not be turned away. In fact it would be a public health disaster to turn them away. They are often quite sick because they have not been able to see a regular doctor or nurse practitioner and are often admitted to a hospital for long stays; all at public expense. A public option would give those people the chance to see a doctor before they become ER material.

    The tragedy of private insurance is the profit the insurers make at the expense of the public. No one should be making a profit on health care!

  • Quincy

    Lawrence –

    First, who’s paying you and how much?

    Second, there’s a difference between not turning people away from emergency rooms and paying the tab when they can’t and setting out to deliberately crowd non-government health care out of the market. Public education has crowded private education into a minority position in the market, and cases like that above demonstrate the kind of abuses that become possible when a government entity controls 80% of an economic sector.

    You say a public option would give the uninsured a chance to see a doctor before they become ER material. You’re absolutely wrong. They might see a doctor, but they will wait for serious treatment because government health care uses queues to ration care. In addition, you will have 120 million more folks who will now have their care rationed in this manner who will now be more likely to need care in an ER because of extended wait times. For a good example of this at work, see Britain’s National Health Service.

    The tragedy of health care is that patients are treated little better than livestock because the system is bought and paid for by employers and the government, not patients. Until doctors, hospitals, and insurers work for consumers, not employers or the government, the system will continue to be broken. ObamaCare does nothing to address this fundamental fact.

  • Contra Costa Libertarian

    “No one should make a profit on health care”? Then where what would be the incentive for companies to develop new technology for medical equipment? Why would pharmaceutical companies develop new medicines? Why would doctors pioneer new treatments?

  • DavidD

    Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence.

    With private healthcare, if you think your insurer is making too much profit from the premiums you pay, YOU CAN TAKE YOUR BUSINESS ELSEWHERE. If enough people feel this way, the company soon finds itself losing money–it’s a self-correcting system.

    The purpose of business–ANY BUSINESS–is to make a profit. PERIOD.

  • DavidD

    I came here to make a comment about homeschooling versus public schooling, but had to respond to Lawrence’s comment first.

    If you don’t think the public school system is doing a good job, you can homeschool your children relatively inexpensively. Unfortunately, it’d be much more difficult to do homehealthcare in the same way. Oh, little Suzy has appendicitis. I guess Mom will do the operation on the dining room table…

    We’re screwed if this thing passes.

  • Quincy

    David –

    I have to correct you when you say that if you don’t like your health insurance you can take your business elsewhere. It’s what we *should* have. In our current system, where health coverage is irrationally tied to employment, you can’t. Remember, most Americans have health care provided by their employers or the government. That’s part of the reason we have a health care crisis.

    Folks like Lawrence who want the government to step in don’t understand the fundamental flaw in our health care system. ObamaCare is like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic and not addressing the big gaping hole in the side. The system will still sink, people will still suffer and die.

    We need a health care system that works for, and answers to, consumers. We have a system that answers to employers and government. At its core, the health crisis really is that simple.

  • tarran

    I am confused by Lawrence’s comment that nobody should profit off of health care.

    Does this mean that doctors should work for no pay?

    Should nurses work for free?

    After all, their wages represent “profit”.

  • southernjames

    Tarran, you said: “I am confused by Lawrence’s comment that nobody should profit off of health care.

    Does this mean that doctors should work for no pay?

    Should nurses work for free? After all, their wages represent “profit”.”

    Tarran – Are wages technically considered “profit?” Is there the “profit” element existing, in the providing of health care in Peoples Republic of China, or in the Workers Paradise of Cuba? Yet doctors in both China and Cuba are paid wages in exchange for their labor, are they not?

    David, those home appendectomy kits shouldn’t be a problem. You just need to read the directions. “Just lay still Suzy – I’m sure its got to be one of these organs.” I’m more daunted by the thought of trying to figure out how to assemble that Deluxe Ronco Home Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment Set, I’ll probably need to buy in anticipation of being “rationed out” of the “Homeland People’s Medical Agency” when I’m old and sick. And you think assembling a propane Gas grill or a swingset is tough?

  • tarran


    I was going by the simple, perhaps overly so, definition of profit – namely that profit = income – outlays.

    My point is that most people “profit” from what they do, and having people “profit” from providing medical services is no more “wrong” than people providing sexual services, running restaurants, smuggling or painting.

    After all what are profits? They are really the taking of some factors of production and combining them in a way that results in something that is more valuable than the sum of the uncombined factors.

    Should we make the medical professions ones where value is withdrawn from society? The very notion is absurd!

  • John222

    I am reminded of the quote from Adam Smith,
    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”
    I would really rather not seek medical assistance from someone in chains. I thought we got rid of slavery.
    James, where can I get that deluxe kit, I should probably start now.

  • Miraj Patel

    Great quotation John222- people need to realize that self-interest is only natural. People in gov’t are also self-interested, it is part of survival and part of human nature.