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Lieberman: The Explanation

Here’s Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) explaining to Fox News today why he’s threatening to filibuster the Democrats’ health reform bill over the inclusion of a public insurance plan:

If the public option, the government-run health insurance company, negotiates hard to lower the reimbursement — the money it’s paying to hospitals, doctors — they’re going to have to get that money somewhere. And where they’re going to get it is from the 200 million Americans who today have private health insurance. Premiums will go up.

What Lieberman failed to mention is the other reason that insurance premiums have gone up so dramatically in recent years: the consolidation of the insurance market, which, in many regions of the country, means that the insurance giants have few competitors — and little reason to keep costs low.

Researchers at the Urban Institute this year described the trend, starting with the observation that “insurer and hospital markets are increasingly dominated by large insurers and provider systems.”

The increased concentration has made it difficult for the nation to reap the benefits usually associated with competitive markets. The consolidation in the insurance market has not led to strong insurers who are willing or able to negotiate effectively with dominant hospital systems. As a result, countervailing power on the demand side may be needed to control costs.

No matter. Lieberman says his opposition to the public option is concrete. “That’s my position,” he told Fox, “and I’m sticking to it.”

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