Another Public-Private Analogy: Universities

03 Sep

People opposed to the public option in health reform say things like “Do you want your health care run like they run the Post Office or the DMV?” They explain that government will limit your choices of insurance plans and health care providers.

People who support the public option in health reform note that the Post Office exists side-by-side with private sector competitors UPS and FedEx, and point out that there are some places that are quite rural, where the USPS will deliver, while UPS and FedEx will not.

Until recently, no one had made reference to another fantastic example of the public and the private sectors working together. Then, on Monday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was quoted in The New Republic stating that “In my state and every state, we have excellent private universities and excellent public universities. People have a choice.” Way to go. He’s absolutely right.

I’ve been a student at two of the oldest public universities in the country: The University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both are outstanding institutions and are quite affordable, too, because they are subsidized in part with taxpayer money. I’ve also been a student at a fine private university: The George Washington University. It cost me a pretty penny to go there for two years, but I was admitted to seven other schools, and I could have gone to any of them. Some were public, others were private. I chose to pay more money and attend one of the private ones, because I wanted to go to school in Washington, DC to take advantage of the unique opportunities to learn about policy, which one can only get there.

What is most important to note is that, by co-existing, public and private universities provide prospective students with more options, not less. An affordable education is offered by public universities, and in most cases, the quality of that education is just as good as–and in some cases better than–the quality of an education at a private university. For those who like value, you can’t beat a UVA, UNC, Berkeley, Michigan, or even UGA (so much has changed there since just the 1980s). For those willing and able to pay top price for tuition at an elite institution like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, or Chicago, you’re free to do so. This system has worked out fantastically well. Why not try it in health care?

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Posted by on September 3, 2009 in Uncategorized


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