Argument: Public insurance offers a valuable check on private insurance
Jacob Hacker. "The case for public plan". The Institute for America's Future: "Public plan choice creates an institutional “check and balance,” encouraging private plans to uphold high standards of quality, affordability, and access. [...] In sum, public plan choice is essential if the broad goals of reform—universal insurance, greater value, and improved quality—are to be achieved. At the same time, it has the value of uniting Americans around the principle of broadly shared risk, while promising to build greater confidence in government over the long term.
[...] PUBLIC PLAN CHOICE AS A BENCHMARK Public and private insurance have distinct strengths and distinct weaknesses. Private insurance is generally more dynamic and flexible than public insurance, but at the same time less stable and more administratively complex and costly. Public insurance is better at spreading risks broadly—given the extreme concentration of medical costs, private plans inevitably have incentives to “cherry-pick” healthier patients—but this advantage carries with it the potential cost of a lesser capacity to adapt rapidly to changing technology or the distinctive personal circumstances of individuals. Thus, a public-private hybrid can provide an important check on both the public and private sectors, ensuring flexibility and stability, market accountability and democratic accountability, inclusive social protection and private innovation—in short, a broadened range of good, meaningful choices."
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.): "Health insurance by its very nature is a rapacious industry. [Insurance companies] want to make a lot of money. We have to have a strong counterbalance to them."
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), according to spokesman Jim Manley, "supports a public option in part because of the necessity to keep insurance companies in check," said spokesman Jim Manley. "However, he recognizes there are different proposals on the table that could accomplish that goal."