If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it’s free! The rhetoric surrounding the reckless pursuit of the so-called “public option” is disconcerting. Let me briefly share my concern.

First, as an employee benefit consultant for the past 25 years, I recognize that the current health-care delivery system is unsustainable, and I am an advocate for meaningful health-care reform. 

But any shape or form of a public option would have disastrous bankrupting consequences on the end goals of affordability, quality and accessibility. With a public option, it’s my firm belief that employees and individual consumers of health care would treat underpriced, government-provided health care as free, leading to overuse, higher costs and, ultimately, limitations on our personal health-care decisions.

Implementation of a public option undoubtedly would be the first step toward collapsing the entire health-care delivery system into a single-payer plan.

The fallacies and inefficiencies of a single-payer system are clearly documented. In this system, taxes are collected to pay for health care, then provided free by government or government-sponsored providers. As a result, consumers who utilize health-care providers act as if it’s free. In reality, the provision of doctors, nurses, hospitals, equipment and myriad other things that go into producing health care are not free.

Thus, very quickly, this type of system runs out of money. The first step to deal with this is to raise taxes. When that no longer works, government agencies “control costs” by limiting the availability of treatments and options. As the experience of Canada, Great Britain and closer to home indicates — e.g. TennCare — the disastrous end result and the only unfortunate alternative to controlling cost is the rationing of care. Don’t kid yourself otherwise.

Don’t be politically allured by the public option Trojan horse — i.e. triggers, opt-in/opt-out choices by states, level playing field, etc. — but instead begin to focus, understand and recognize the disastrous consequences of our health-care delivery system collapsing into a single-payer system.

From my perspective as an insurance benefits adviser, a consumer of health care and an employer providing health care, a free/public option is going to cost us all.

Dan Cattaneo, CEO/president
Beneflex Insurance Services Inc.