People Who Aren’t Poor Shouldn’t Expect Free Stuff

In my health care class today we discussed the CLASS Act, a part of the health care reform legislation that attempted to create an affordable benefit program for long-term (nursing) care. The program was scrapped after actuaries determined that it could not operate within the financial limits allowed. This should not have been such a surprise, as long-term care can be really, really expensive.

Our professor noted that, in the absence of some federal long-term care entitlement, many people struggle to pay for long-term care. Medicare does not cover nursing services, though Medicaid does. However, in order to qualify for long-term coverage under Medicaid, seniors have to spend through their earnings and, in effect, impoverish themselves. “This,” our professor noted, “poses quite a dilemma.”

My response: huh?

Sure, it is quite a dilemma for the person who must decide between spending through their savings and foregoing long-term care, but how is it a dilemma for society or policy-makers? A person who values nursing services should buy them! Why, though, should the government pay for services of those who live above the level of wealth that society seems to have determined actually merits assistance (i.e. the level at which Medicaid and welfare are provided)?

Surely the strangers who will be taxed to provide for these services derive little benefit for these services. Why should they be forced to pay for them, while the assets of the person who receives the benefits are shielded? The demand for long-term entitlement is a self-serving cry for distributive relief.

Imagine a middle-class retiree with $2 million in the bank, and a lower-class retiree with only a few hundred thousand. Neither one is poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and welfare. In other words, they are not so poor that society has determined that they should receive financial assistance, forcibly obtained from wealthier people.

If the lower-class retiree needs long-term care, he may quickly become poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. The middle-class retiree, on the other hand, may spend a million dollars, on long-term care, and still have savings well-above the level of the lower-class retiree. If society pays for his long-term care needs, they have in effect protected his financial status from erosion, while at the same time ignoring and giving no assistance to the poorer lower-class retiree.

What possible principle could justify this? How about, “I deserve to be about as rich as I am now, even if other people are poorer.” Isn’t that a rather unprincipled assertion of privilege? My suggestion is that, at least regarding long-term care, society cannot justify paying for the entitlements of people who live above the level required for general government assistance.

Here are the responses I received from the other members of the class.

1. Long-term care needs can be unexpected.

So what? Why should we favor richer people with unexpected expenses over poorer people without them?

2. Medicaid provides access only to awful long-term care.

Maybe true, but a separate issue. The premise that poorer people need better long-term care does not yield the conclusion that the finances of richer people should be subsidized.

3. The bar for Medicaid is set too low.

Then it should be raised.

4. A married couple may have to liquidate both of their earnings to pay for care for one of them.

This is a poignant objection. A wife might not really assign much value to the long-term care that her husband receives, but there may not be a realistic way for her to protect her portion of the couple’s assets. She is “locked in” to his health care expenses.

But my same argument holds here too, I think. Surely a spouse values the long-term care of their partner more than the strangers who would otherwise be forced to pay. Why should strangers be forced to pay to maintain a spouse’s lifestyle when other poorer people receive no assistance?

Reasons for Pessimism

Some of my conservative friends have suggested a couple of reasons not to be utterly depressed by the passage of health care reform:

  1. Voters will angrily sweep Republicans into power.
  2. Republicans will rally the country around repealing health care reform.
  3. We now have an actual bill that voters can evaluate, and the bill will create its own opposition.

I always have to ask my friends whether they are being sarcastic, or actually delusional.

Republican resurgence is miserably insufficient to comfort anyone who opposed health care reform on principle, so we can breeze on to the second point. Though, I am generally skeptical that Americans really oppose these reforms, or that conservatives will control government in 2014!

Republicans don’t actually oppose health care reform. They pretend to. But ask them why they dislike Obamacare, and they generally recite something incomprehensible about big government or socialism. Then they advocate something identical – like the conservative Heritage Foundation, which sponsored the same reforms in Massachusetts alongside Republican Governor Mitt Romney. Damningly, most conservatives – notice Republican Senator John Cornyn- still consider prohibitting insurers from denying coverage to already sick patients to be “uncontroversial”. Yet this “reasonable reform” inevitably leads to every major item in the Democrats’ health care legislation. More on this anon.

Which brings us to the final argument. How, exactly, are people supposed to be able to evaluate the effects of this bill? As far as I can tell, they can’t. Most people today get their health care through their employer. This cuts into their wages, but they don’t know how much it costs because their employer never tells them. The reforms will not change this. People will continue to mainly receive insurance through their employer. Insurers will now be forced to cross-subsidize and offer more strictly defined plans. This could increase price and decrease choice, but employees will never see these changes. Their employer will still make the major choices for them.

Low income individuals who will be offered subsidized insurance through pseudo-market health care “exchanges” will see a fairly large change. But why should they complain? They lose a bit of freedom by being forced to buy insurance, but likely gain from the subsidies. Do we really expect them to revolt against another quasi-welfare program? Hardly – the fact that Democrats have built a party around buying votes with entitlement programs suggests that it is a successful political strategy.

The strongest arguments for or against health care reform have always been the long run counterfactuals. Progressives argue that the reforms will “bend the curve” of health care cost increases by taxing insurance into submission (other even more mystical-sounding claims are also made). Reform opponents counter that the bill will slow innovation in medicine and delivery systems by further delinking consumers from the costs of health care. I side with the opponents, of course, but the general public can’t appraise these arguments merely by watching the legislation work its magic. That’s why the arguments are counterfactuals. There is no alternative reality that we can compare our world to.

Finally, there are the taxes. Nobody likes them. But every spending program has come with new taxes. Social Security and Medicare have much more visible taxes linked to them. Yet no major spending program, to the best of my knowledge, has ever been repealed because of taxes. Occasionally the taxes themselves have been lowered. Then they have been raised again. But the spending remains. The taxes, in this case, aren’t even that important: health care reform does most of its damage through regulations and cross-subsidies born directly by the insurance companies and their customers.

In the end, no bill ever gets a careful examination after its passage. People have too much going on in their real lives to waste their time figuring out whether any particular piece of legislation is good (or just). Even if they did, there is little or no information with which to make a “practical” judgment. Expect even the “experts” to be debating the effects of this bill a decade from now. The only people who will care are those that derive a large benefit from the program – like the senior citizens who defend Medicare tooth and nail. 2014, the earliest the bill could be repealed by Republican lawmakers, is a lifetime away for our rationally apolitical electorate. If voters still remember health care reform, even if they still dislike it, they probably just won’t care that much. But reform comes with a built in interest group – the medical profession – that stands to gain access to new, paying patients. We can expect them – doctors, insurers, and hospitals – to loudly defend this legislation with the false moral clarity of other people’s money.

Constitutional Law – Barnett v. Kerr

There is a great debate going on at the Volokh Conspiracy on the meaning of constitutional law.  It reminds me of the more lively Volokh of old.

A snippet of Barnett’s blistering criticism:

In support of his reasonable prediction, Orin offers the following equally reasonable proposition: “If there is a federalism issue that doesn’t have a lot of practical importance, there’s a decent chance five votes exist for the pro-federalism side. . . . As soon as the issue takes on practical importance, however, the votes generally aren’t there.” But what type of proposition is this? Is it “the Constitution”? Is it even “constitutional law”? If it is neither, then I do not see how it is responsive to the question of whether a mandate to buy private insurance in constitutional, unless one redefines “constitutional” to mean “whatever the Court can be predicted to rule.” THIS is what Orin calls a “semantic” issue, which it is, but it is not merely semantic. It is also substantive and very important issue to boot.

And Kerr’s essentially agnostic response:

Of course, Randy is welcome to use his label, in which his vision of the Constitution is “the real Constitution,” while the Constitution that others believe in are false idols. I envision Randy coming down from Mt. Sinai with a copy of Restoring the Lost Constitution, as the Israelites look up from their worship of the golden calf of the United States Reports. My point is only that the choice of label is a rhetorical move, not a jurisprudential one. I recognize it is an important rhetorical move: the believers-in-the-true-God-versus-the-heathens meme has worked for millenia, and I gather from what Randy says that it is a key part of trying to popularize his view of how the Constitution should be construed. But I think it’s important to recognize the rhetorical move.

Inside the Twisted Mind of a Government Tax Planner

This post was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform, where I was an Associate (intern):

Title 1, Subtitle D of the Senate Finance Committee’s Chairman’s Mark establishes “Shared Responsibility” requirements for individuals and employers. For employers, this requirement entails a tax linked to the number of their employees receiving subsidies in the General Fund.

For each full time employee (defined as working 30 hours or more each week) enrolled in a state exchange and receiving a tax credit, the employer would be required to pay a flat dollar amount… equal to the average tax credit in the state exchanges.

The tax is no doubt intended to strong-arm employers into providing insurance. But what does it actually do? In essence, the fine punishes employers who hire low-wage employees. The value of subsidized employee’s productivity decreases by the amount of the tax the employer is expected to play – so their market wage will drop by the same amount. If this wage falls below the minimum wage – likely, because their wages are already low – then many employers will simply fire them.

Realizing this dilemma, the tax planners attempt to “fix” this problem with an arcane tax cap:

The assessment is capped for all employers at an amount equal to $400 multiplied by the total number of employees at the firm (regardless of how many are receiving the state exchange credit).

Baucus’s planners provide a helpful scenario to demonstrate how the cap will affect incentives:

For example, Employer A, who does not offer health coverage, has 100 employees, 30 of whom receive a tax credit for enrolling in a state exchange offered plan. If the flat dollar amount set by the Secretary of HHS for that year is $3,000, Employer A should owe $90,000. Since the maximum amount an employer must pay per year is limited to $400 multiplied by the total number of employees (for Employer A, 100), however, Employer A must pay only $40,000 (the lesser of the $40,000 maximum and the $90,000 calculated fee).

Because the employer is paying a $400 penalty per employee, rather than a $3000 penalty per subsidized employee, the employer has no specific incentive to decrease the wages of subsidized workers. Problem solved, right? Wrong.

Now the employer has an incentive to lower the wages of all of his workers (or fire them if they are already at minimum wage). Instead of “fixing” the costs created by the original tax, the government planners have spread it across a new group of employees. The tax penalty is of course lower – but this simply means it will be less successful in achieving its questionable objective.

And what if the company in the above example had only 13 workers receiving subsidies? Then the penalty paid would be $39,000 (13 subsidized employees times the $3000 average tax credit, which is less than the $40,000 cap). Now of course, the incentive is to decrease the wages or fire only the subsidized workers. And because the tax is higher, it affects each of these subsidized (and therefore “low-wage”) workers more strongly.

Other costs abound. Because the fee is applied only to subsidized employees working for more than 30 hours a week, companies can dodge the fee by reducing these employees’ hours. Only companies with more than 50 employees are subject to fees, so companies have an incentive to reduce the scale of their operations, or to spin off part of their business as a smaller subsidiary. Seeking these new arrangements bears a cost on the company and the economy at large. Even determining what arrangement is most efficient bears a cost on a company – even if it ultimately decides the best option is to provide health insurance!

The tax planners have attempted to “fix the market’s behavior, and then fix the perverse consequences of their original intervention. Inevitably a new perverse consequence is created. All of this for what? Wages are determined by productivity – this measure only strong-arms employers into offering compensation in a less liquid form than cash. However undesirable the other health care goals of central planners may be, none of them require an employee mandate. Planners could just as easily force citizens to buy health care with an individual mandate – then consumers would have at least the option of directly picking their preferred level of insurance. Community rating, guaranteed issue, pre-existing coverage, and deductible caps do not rely in any important sense on an employer mandate. Only Baucus’s arbitrary desire that employer insurance dominate the market is satisfied by this harmful web of byzantine regulations. Employers, workers, and taxpayers, as usual, are left with the bill.

Capitalism and Socialism are Opposites, Not “Two Complementary, Good Ideas”

The following was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform, where I am an intern:

Perhaps the most frustratingly incoherent part of Obama speech Wednesday was his repeated portrayal of the market and government planning as just two possible, non-exhaustive, mutually-reinforcing “solutions” to the current health care “crisis”.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s — (applause) — where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody.  On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own…. I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches.

Obama likes to present his plan as a sort of third way between government-run health care and the market, incorporating, as he said, “the best ideas of both parties together”. This is essentially nonsense. Our health care system cannot be made “more free market” and “more government-regulated” simultaneously.

The free market and government planning are exhaustive opposites. Every health care choice is either made freely by consumers selecting their most favored option, or it is chosen for them by government mandates. Under a market system, for example, consumers can either choose to buy health insurance through their employer or on the individual market. In a planned economy, by contrast, the government may order them to buy through their employer.

President Obama leaves little doubt as to which direction he will take our health care system:

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those — especially the young and the healthy — who still want to take the risk and go without coverage.  There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers by giving them coverage.

And that’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.  (Applause.)  Likewise — likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers.

But we can’t have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees.  Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

Obama’s plan, at its heart, requires that consumers be deprived of their free choice, so that the government can micromanage insurance premiums based on arbitrary notions of “just cost distributions”. This is, at its heart, socialism.

Obama Punts on Cost Reductions

The following post was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform, where I am an Associate (intern):

“I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road — to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term. “

- President Obama, September 9, 2009, in his address to Congress

In his speech last night, Obama tried to imitate a man concerned by the costs of his health care proposal. Obama promised that his bill would be deficit neutral:

I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.  And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.

Obama’s “serious” promises lack substance. As previously argued, pledging “not to sign” a bill is meaningless: the President must veto a bill to block its passage. But the “promised savings” suggestion is even more insidious. Such a provision merely promises to delay any budgetary solution until a crisis has actually arrived. As Obama would say, it kicks the can further down the road to defer reform one more year, one more election, or one more term.

What faith should people have that actual budget cuts will be made at this future point, when they cannot be made now? Congress would have to actively draft specific cuts – cuts that hurt special interests eager to preserve their spot at the public trough. Congress would retain all power to break this non-binding promise. So how likely is it that Congressmen would take up arms against their campaign contributors, instead of raising taxes or taking on more debt?

If Obama were really interested in proposing a fiscally responsible bill, he would be proposing conditional spending, not conditional spending cuts. He would propose subsidies that took effect after his “savings” were realized, not unspecified spending cuts after the savings proved illusory. “Trust me” is not a cost-cutting reform worth $900 billion – or any amount.

Obama’s unserious proposals force us to choose between two conclusions. Either he doesn’t know what he’s doing, or he is insincere.  Given his eloquence, education, and the vast resources of his office, the former seems precluded.

The Fundamental Incoherence of Obama’s Health Care Crisis Claims

This piece was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform’s blog, where I am an Associate (intern):

In his speech to Congress last night, President Obama grounded his health reform plans two contradictory claims. First, President Obama insisted that health insurers were increasingly denying health care to their clients. Then, he argued that America was suffering from a crisis of rising health care expenditures.

More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care.  It happens every day.

Then there’s the problem of rising cost.  We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it.  This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages.

Obama’s argument betrays either ignorance or a willful disregard for economic reasoning. If insurers engaged in wholesale jettisoning of their most expensive customers, their costs would fall. An insurance company with lower costs would be able to capture more market share from its rivals by lowering its prices. Those rivals would be forced to compete either by matching the new lower premiums or competing in quality – i.e. by indulging in less rescission!

Health care premiums are rising, so we can safely assume that more, not less, health care is being delivered by insurers. To argue that both costs and rescissions are increasing simultaneously is to deny the basic reality of free market competition. Radical overhauls of the health care system should not be grounded in this populist fantasy.

Health Care Policy Essay

The following is an essay I wrote for the Charles G Koch Summer Fellow Program.

Public Policy Essay *
Write a 500-word essay on a major issue of public policy. Your essay should address the significance of your chosen issue, the problems with the current policies, and your public policy approach to dealing with it. Please adhere to the word limit.

Reforming America’s health insurance system – and protecting it from the wrong sort of reforms – is critical for the preservation of our welfare and freedom.  The modern health care apparatus is a crowning achievement of our era and has played a central role in our historically unparalleled standard of living.  Today, health expenditures compose as much as 17% of US GDP.  But this strength rests on an unsteady foundation.

The health care industry suffers from man-made maladies –government-induced incentives and regulations have warped the market and prohibited it from delivering its desired equilibrium.  Employer-provided health care benefits are excluded from income tax liability, a subsidy that has atrophied the individual health insurance market.  This system restricts Americans to the narrow set of options chosen by their employer – prohibiting many from selecting plans that truly match their preferences.  Because so many purchase their insurance through employers, employees who are laid off simultaneously lose health insurance – compounding the miseries of the most desperate Americans.

At the same time, the states have slowly ratcheted down the number of options available to consumers.  Insurers are required to include increasing number of procedures in their plans, even for those individuals who do not wish to buy them.  Limits on deductibles and co-pays have been widely adopted in a misguided effort to “protect” consumers.  “Community rating” rules force the young and healthy to subsidize the old and sick through redistributive premium prices.  These regulations ensure that most do not get what they want, many pay more than they have to, and some simply decide that they would be better off without insurance.

A few simple reforms could remedy these problems.  Individual states, or the federal government through its interstate commerce power, could permit Americans to buy insurance policies licensed under any states’ regulatory regime.  This would free Americans from the specific requirements of their state of residence; the states would be forced to compete to deliver a “market equilibrium” bundle of regulations that best fit the needs of consumers and insurers.

The federal government could spur competition in the individual health insurance market by extending income tax exclusion to individual health policies.  If Americans were allowed to use pre-tax health savings accounts to pay insurance premiums, they would no longer pay a tax penalty on insurance plans purchased outside their employer’s offerings.

Other proposals seek to “fix” health insurance through tighter government controls.  These reforms aim at turning the risk-insurance market into something resembling a privatized welfare system in which all must participate.  These reforms purport to “reduce costs”, but they can do so only by arbitrarily prohibiting Americans from seeking certain types of medical attention.  Invidiously, those who would bear the redistributive costs of care would be rewarded for their “charity” with the loss of their freedom to make insurance decisions.  In the long run, this rationing would reduce rewards to innovation, slowing the technological progress that has made health care so powerful today.  We must not institute reforms of this nature.

No Health Care on Saturday?

This piece was originally posted on Americans for Tax Reform’s blog, where I am an Associate (intern).

“If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

- President Obama, 8/11/09

Obama is right – the post office isn’t doing so well.  Recently, Postmaster General John Potter requested that Congress end Saturday mail delivery in order to cut costs. As a rule, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) fail to operate efficiently. GSEs exist to fill political, rather than market, demands, and they may not offer a product at a price that anyone is really willing to pay. Because politicians will ensure that organizations like the post office continue to function, its directors have limited incentives to cut unnecessary costs or operate at a profit.

So what will happen when the public option realizes, like the post office, that it cannot, metaphorically speaking, pay for health care “every day of the week”? It could imitate the post office and simply shut down on Sunday and perhaps Saturday as well. No consumers would sign up for insurance that only offered a 6/7 chance of providing coverage.

But a plan so bad that no one would purchase it fails to satisfy the arbitrary political demand for substantial government interference in the market. A government determined to have a “viable” public alternative to the private market is left with a few options once their offering fails on its own merits. They can subsidize it openly and have taxpayers pay for “weekend health care”. They can subsidize it implicitly by outsourcing administrative functions to other branches of the government (as the government outsources Medicare funds collection to the IRS). Or it can tilt the market in the public option’s favor by granting it special tax status and immunity from certain types of regulations and by passing laws that require the private market to adopt the public offering’s more expensive methodology.

Or it can do all of the above. As Edward Hudgins explains, the post office is a vivid example of government interference in defense of its sponsored firm. Congress has favored the post office with direct subsidies, tax privileges, and bans against “first-class mail” delivery in inter- and intra-city markets. Despite this generous patronage, the US Postal Service is $6 billion in debt.

Government offerings are a threat precisely because they respond to political, rather than market demand. Like the post office, they can only control costs by rationing. And like the post office, they can only ration after their competition has been regulated away. The government can cut health care on Saturday only after it has cut the rest of the private market. The twin arbitrary political demands of a public option ensure that we will be left with one meager, inefficiently delivered option. Why cater to politicians’ demands instead of actual consumer preferences?

Photo Credit: Davonteee

A Public Option Co-op is still a Public Option

And probably not a co-op.

Note: this post was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform. It has been posted here in advance and may be serialized later to the ATR blog.

The White House has started to hint that the public option may no longer be a required feature of health care reform.  Yesterday, Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggested that a “co-op” might be an acceptable alternative to a government run public plan.  But what, exactly, is a co-op?  And would a government run co-op be substantially different from the public option supported by most Democrats?

In general, a co-op is a company owned by its customers, or members.  The members or owners of an insurance co-op would be its policy holders.  Co-op advocates claim, somewhat speciously, that co-ops deliver superior care because policy holders will be co-owners of their policy (alongside the tens of thousands of other co-op members).

If co-ops are more efficient in delivering health care, why don’t they exist?  They do, after a fashion.  Michael Tanner of the Cato Foundation notes that successful insurers regarded as co-ops such as Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative, California’s PacAdvantage, and Minneapolis’s Health Partners, Inc. have existed for some time.  Tanner concludes:

By all accounts the people insured through these co-ops are happy with their choice. But there is no evidence that they are significantly less expensive or more efficient than other insurers.

Why are Democrats excited about a co-op if its slightly different corporate organization yields an identical product?  For one thing, they aren’t actually proposing a co-op.  They’re offering a public plan and just calling it a co-op.

In particular, Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the key Finance Committee negotiators, has proposed a co-op that would be subsidized by a $10 billion start up fund and controlled by presidential appointees.  Schumer has made it clear that he wants a government-run national alternative to the private market.

If a “co-op” is controlled by presidential appointees, it’s unclear in what sense it would actually be a co-op.  It would be meaningless to claim that an insurance option was owned by its policy holders if it were in fact controlled by the government.  Importantly, HHS Secretary Sebelius seems to have been endorsing Schumer’s version of the co-op, and not the more moderate version being discussed by others like Senator Kent Conrad.  Co-ops are ok, she explained, as long as they are not private insurance companies (i.e. they are public government insurance companies):

That’s really the essential part, is you don’t turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices, we need some competition.

A government controlled, subsidized, “co-op” national insurance option is not an alternative to the public plan – it is the public option.  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, it would be a rigid, bureaucratic entity.  The massive $10 billion subsidy would tilt the market in the co-op’s favor.  Congress and the President would be invested in its success because of the politically appointed directorship.  This makes further subsidies, perhaps glossed as temporary start-up funds, likely or inevitable.

As the Heritage Foundation has noted, the government sponsored enterprise (GSE) model has a long and dismal history.  Smaller rural electricity cooperatives have remained subsidized for nearly 80 years.  The larger GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were able to drive many competitors from the housing finance market because they had the implicit backing of the Federal government.  This guarantee became explicit when the government bailed out the failing firms after the housing market collapse – at a cost that may exceed $100 billion.  Even if a government sponsored co-op were not explicitly subsidized past its start-up costs, it would still receive the same implicit subsidies that covered Fannie and Freddie.

Absent the direct government controls envisioned by Schumer and, apparently, Sebelius, explicit and implicit subsidies would still be a risk for any government-sponsored national “alternative” to the private market.  The more moderate co-op proposals advanced by Senator Conrad and others on the Finance Committee suffer from these fatal flaws.

Heritage has laid out conditions under which co-ops could be created – if co-ops, and not a public government-run option were what Congress really wanted.  As usual, increased health care choice requires less and not more government interference.  Government cannot create options for consumers; it can only choose whether or not it wants to limit them.  This reality may be upsetting to Schumer, Sebelius, et al. who undoubtedly want to be able to make something new for Americans.  If the frustration grows unbearable, they can always look for a job in the private sector.