A Public Option for Health Insurance

A revenue-neutral, market-oriented public option for health insurance

Our health care system is broken.  We pay more for health care than citizens of any other industrialized country and get less in return.  A public option for health care would address the major flaw with the Affordable Care Act.  Legislation that would provide a public option for health insurance has been introduced in Congress, but is not likely to pass anytime soon.

There are numerous ways to work out the details of a public option for health insurance, but the common denominator is eliminating the added cost of having private, for-profit health insurance companies acting as gatekeepers for access to health care, which adds significantly to the cost of health care, without any benefit whatsoever in terms of the quality or quantity of health care provided.

Ballot proposals for a public option would give the people of each state where the campaign is successful an affordable option for health insurance through the formation of health insurance cooperatives.  Premiums and out-of-pocket maximums could both be based on percentages of household income.  With members paying premiums (or membership fees) that cover the full cost of the program, a public option would not use tax revenues, so taxes would not be affected in any way.

With the most simple plan, members would receive needed preventative and medically-necessary health care services from any health care provider and pay that provider directly.  If a family’s medical expenses exceed the out-of-pocket maximum in any given year, they would be reimbursed for expenses in excess of the maximum.

By working the way most insurance is supposed to work, kicking in only when exceptional expenses are incurred, utilizing a true market-oriented approach.  Patients would have a full range of choices regarding providers, there would be considerably less paperwork to be done, and the cost of various health care services would be made transparent.  The net result would be dramatic reductions in expenditures related to health care.

The lack of a public option is the biggest, and most easily addressed, problem with The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).  This type of public-option can be added to The Affordable Care Act without affecting other parts of the act, if it remains in place.  If “Obamacare” is repealed, having this option in place would provide a life-saving means of maintaining health insurance for many people.

If, at some point a “Medicare-for-All Who Want It” type system is adopted, health insurance cooperatives would still provide a good, market-oriented option for people who are leery of government programs.