Public Option

 

Please watch this interview with Hillary Clinton. The whole thing is worth watching, but the portion about healthcare policy and the best route forward starts at around 9:20 in and runs less than 7 minutes, to 16:00 (It's supposed to be cued up to exactly 9:20 but you may have to scrub forward to get to it depending on your device).

Please take 6 minutes and 40 seconds out of your day to actually listen to the words which are coming out of her mouth.

UPDATE: Full, verbatim transcript by yours truly:

Andrew Ross Sorkin: “I want to talk to you a little bit about healthcare, because I know it’s an issue that you care about deeply and have thought a lot about.”

Hillary Clinton: “I have.”

Sorkin: “Because we seem to be in a very divided world, not just among two different parties, but even within the Democratic Party. Medicare for All versus a Public Option. You look at what Elizabeth Warren presented last week, and you think...what?”

I honestly haven't written or read much about this since I wrote about it in April, but the Colorado government is making good on its promise to put forward a serious Public Option proposal.

While Washington is technically the first state to create their own state-based Public Option, the reality is that while I do give them plenty of credit for getting the ball rolling (their PO is scheduled to go into effect starting in January 2021), what they're doing isn't quite what most people have in mind when they think of a PO.

Washington is essentially outsourcing administration of a healthcare plan to an existing carrier, with the state government negotiating the provider network and reimbursement rate levels...which have been set to 160% of Medicare rates. There's nothing wrong with this, and it's an important move forward...but it's only expected to shave perhaps 5-10% at most off of costs because any negotiated rate settings are partly cancelled out by the cost of the private carrier doing the administration.

I haven't written much about South Bend, Indiana Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. The biggest mention I've given him until now was back in March, when he stated that he's an advocate for a robust Medicare-like public option plan.

Today, however, "Mayor Pete," as he's come to be known, rolled out his official healthcare overhaul plan, and sure enough, it centers on...a robust Medicare-like public option. He calls it "Medicare for All Who Want It":

BECAUSE HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT, GUARANTEE UNIVERSAL COVERAGE THROUGH MEDICARE FOR ALL WHO WANT IT.

The Medicare for All Who Want It public alternative will help America reach universal coverage by providing an affordable insurance option to the currently uninsured. The public alternative will provide the same essential health benefits as those currently available on the marketplaces and ensure that everyone has access to high-quality, comprehensive coverage.

Politically, it's generally better to underpromise and overdeliver. Unfortunately, when it comes to the actual legislative process it's usually the other way around.

Case in point: Connecticut.

It was just twelve days ago that Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont rolled out his proposed ACA improvement policy package, which included a bunch of key elements including the ballyhooed "Connecticut Option"...a Public Option which would have opened up the existing state employee healthcare plan to anyone on the individual or small group markets.

The full suite was supposed to include nine major provisions:

This actually happened back in March but I missed it at the time:

Lawmaker proposes Medicaid buy-in and individual mandate for Oregonians

Representative Andrea Salinas, the new Chair of the House Health Care Committee, recently filed a bill that aims to establish a Medicaid buy-in option for Oregon residents. The bill, HB 2009, would also establish a “shared responsibility penalty,” or an individual mandate for Oregonians.

HB 2009 would essentially allow individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid, or for premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act, to enroll in CCOs by paying premiums to cover their health services.

(Note: "CCOs" = "Coordinated Care Organizations", which I believe is how Oregon designates their Medicaid program.)

Welp. That didn't take long...just a week ago, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that he and the state legislative leaders had put together a robust package of impressive healthcare reform bills, including:

  • expanding subsidies to at least some of those eanring more than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (like California is in the process of doing)
  • expanding Medicaid up to 170% FPL (it used to be 201% FPL but was dropped down to 155% a couple of years ago)
  • reinstating the ACA's individual mandate penalty (similar to what Massachusetts, New Jersey and DC have done and what California is in the process of doing)
  • implementing a state-level reinsurance program (as over a half-dozen states, including several GOP-controlled ones, have done)

Last October, shortly before the midterm election, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced that if elected, he'd push hard for a robust reinsurance program along the lines of other states which have successfully implemented reinsurance 1332 waivers under the ACA:

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont has much lower expectations for what he’s going to be able to do to improve the health of Connecticut residents than one might expect from a Democratic candidate this year.

Sounds like Lamont would not push for CT to reinstate the ACA individual mandate penalty:

...Does he believe everyone in Connecticut has to purchase health insurance now that it’s not mandated by the federal government?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an extensive piece laying out what seemed, at first glance, to be a bona fide state-level Public Option bill quietly working its way through the Washington State legislature:

Democrats in Olympia push through governor’s 'green' agenda and public healthcare coverage bills

...Another key item on the governor’s agenda is the so-called “public option” socialized health care coverage measure, SB 5526. This bill would create subsidized state-funded public health plans managed by regulated insurance companies. It would require the State Insurance Commissioner and the Health Care Authority to set up the socialized plans by 2021.

,,,These plans would be available through the state’s health care exchange to all residents, but the state would pay subsidies to individuals with incomes of up to five times the poverty level. Premiums would be limited to no more than ten percent of adjusted gross income, and payments to doctors and other health care providers would be restricted to Medicare-level limits.

via the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Colorado's Senate advanced another piece of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis' health care agenda on Tuesday by tentatively endorsing a study on creating a state-run health insurance option.

The bill would direct state agencies to recommend a plan that would compete with existing private insurance plans and those offered on Colorado's health care exchange. Another Senate vote sends the study bill to the governor. It's already cleared the House on a bipartisan 46-17 vote.

On the surface, this sounds pretty much like the state-level Public Option bill which has quietly been rushed through the Washington State legislature over the past few weeks. Unlike the Washington bill, however, it looks like the Colorado legislature is covering a few more bases...particularly funding:

Back in January, 2nd-term Washington Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Jay Inslee jumped fully onboard the Public Option train:

Inslee proposes ‘public option’ health-insurance plan for Washington

The proposal, which Inslee said is the first step toward universal health care, is geared in part to help stabilize the exchange, which has wrestled with double-digit premium increases and attempts by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

...The proposal would have the state Health Care Authority contract with at least one health-insurance carrier to offer qualified health coverage on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, according to a summary of the proposal.

With useful healthcare legislation extremely unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate until at least 2021, state-based public options will be all the rage for the next couple of years...

Connecticut lawmakers are joining other states that have unveiled proposals to expand government-run health coverage, with plans to extend state health benefits to small businesses and nonprofits, and to explore a public option for individuals.

Under two measures announced Thursday, officials would open the state health plan to nonprofits and small companies – those with 50 or fewer employees – and form an advisory council to guide the development of a public option. The legislation would allow the state to create a program, dubbed “ConnectHealth,” that offers low-cost coverage to people who don’t have employer-sponsored insurance.

Things have been happening so quickly of late that I'm getting farther and farther behind on some important healthcare policy developments, particularly at the state level. There are two extremely important Public Option announcements which could be game changers if they make it through the legislative process.

Since I don't have time to do full write-ups on either one right now, I'll just present these summaries:

My friend and colleague Colin Baillio, policy director of Health Action New Mexico, has been working on this for a long time, and it looks like this project has finally entered the legislative stage:

LUJÁN APPLAUDS INTRODUCTION OF MEDICAID BUY-IN LEGISLATION IN NEW MEXICO

Something is definitely in the water this week, and I believe it's called "Democrats hitting their stride on healthcare reform":

And now, this:

Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday announced proposed legislation for a new “public option” health-care plan under Washington’s health-insurance exchange.

The proposal, which Inslee said is the first step toward universal health care, is geared in part to help stabilize the exchange, which has wrestled with double-digit premium increases and attempts by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“We are proposing to the state Legislature that we have a public option that is available throughout the state of Washington so that we can increase the ability to move forward on the road to universal health care in the state of Washington,” said the governor, who is considering a run for president in 2020.

With the 2019 Open Enrollment Period starts in less than 24 hours, it probably isn't the best timing for this, but with the elections also coming up in just six days, perhaps it is.

Axios just published a new national survey via SurveyMonkey which asks two simple but important questions:

  • Generally speaking, when you hear candidates talking about “Medicare for All,” what do you think they are proposing?
    • A single, government-run health insurance program to cover all Americans
    • An optional government-run program that would compete with private insurance
    • Neither of these
  • And which of the following options for health care would you favor most?
    • A single, government-run health insurance program to cover all Americans
    • An optional government-run program that would compete with private insurance
    • Neither of these

The results are pretty telling:

Given that Hillary Clinton has long supported a "public option" being included with the ACA and that she reiterated support for the public option (at the state level, since she recognizes that the odds of getting anything useful through a GOP-controlled Congress at the federal level is likely pretty slim) in late February, this piece by Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg Politics may seem like a nonstory:

At a campaign stop Monday in Northern Virginia, Hillary Clinton reiterated her support for a government-run health plan in the insurance market, possibly by letting let Americans buy into Medicare, to stem the rise of health-care costs.