Verma likens public option to having 'referees play in the game'

CMS Administrator Seema Verma criticized proposed healthcare reforms like "Medicare for All" and a government-run public health insurance option during remarks at the HLTH Conference in Las Vegas Oct. 27.

Ms. Verma called to question the role government should play in healthcare, outlining two paths she sees to reform: expansion of the government's footprint in healthcare or limiting its reach.

The first path, which Ms. Verma says entails proposals like Medicare for All and a public option, would make the government's role in healthcare "virtually absolute, omnipotent and unlimited." Ms. Verma specifically criticized proposals from Democrats for a public option, which she likened to letting "referees play in the game they oversee."

"Government should not be permitted to actively compete against the market it regulates. With a bottomless pocketbook, it would be a competitor that couldn't lose. And that's what makes the public option so insidious. Cleverly framed as the preservation of a free market, it would in fact devastate it," she argued.

A public option, which involves adding a government-sponsored health insurance option into the marketplace to compete with private plans, has been backed by more than half of Democratic presidential candidates. In a recent study conducted by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank, researchers found a public option alone could reduce federal health spending by $19.4 billion next year.

Rather than more government control, Ms. Verma vied for a system with more incentives for private players to move toward value-based care.

"We must realign the payment paradigm in government programs to create incentives that deliver the outcomes we want: prevention of disease, higher quality of life, and lower cost," she said. "That's why we have continued bipartisan efforts to realign incentives to develop over a dozen new innovative payment models that allow reimbursement to be tied to value, rather than merely volume of services."

Read the full speech here.

More articles on payers:
CMS delays start of primary care payment model
CEO of Texas Health Aetna out after 8 months
UnitedHealth drops appeal of Supreme Court decision on alleged overpayments

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