ICYMI: First State Public Option ‘Struggles To Gain Traction’

HARTFORD, Conn. – As some politicians in Hartford consider the creation of a new, unaffordable state government-controlled health insurance system, known as the “public option” or “state government option,” a similar system is failing in the one state in which it has been implemented.

NPR and Kaiser Health News report on the struggles of the state government-controlled “public option” system in Washington state.

UNAFFORDABLE COSTS: The proponents of the public option in Washington state estimated public option plans would have “premiums 5 percent to 10 percent lower than traditional plans on the exchange. But public option premiums were, on average, 11 percent higher than the lowest silver plan premium available in each county on the marketplace in 2021, and a silver public option plan had the lowest premium in just nine counties.”

LOW ENROLLMENT: Only 1 percent of people buying plans on the exchange chose public option plans in 2021.”

PUTTING ACCESS TO CARE AT RISK: Health care leaders have warned that “the public option relies on cutting payments to hospitals to control costs and ties reimbursement to Medicare rates, which don’t cover hospitals’ cost of providing care.” This could put patients’ access to quality care at risk.

While the state government option fails in Washington state, private plans and existing public programs are working together to provide Connecticut residents with access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care.

For example, Connecticut residents are already benefitting from affordable insurance options through the state’s health insurance exchange. CT News Junkie reported that more than 108,690 Connecticut residents had enrolled in the exchange as of early January. And thanks to the increased health subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan, tens of thousands more Connecticut residents became eligible for lower-cost and even free health coverage. In fact, an estimated 40,000 Connecticut residents qualify for Covered Connecticut, which offers free premiums, copays and deductibles.

At the same time, a recent study by KNG Health Care Consulting finds that creating the “public option” in Connecticut could result in higher taxes and premiums and also reduce access to quality health care.

Instead of creating an unaffordable new state government-controlled health insurance system that could increase costs and threaten access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care in Connecticut, policymakers should instead focus on proven solutions that strengthen what is working today, including supporting greater participation in existing health coverage resources that help Connecticut residents get healthy and stay healthy.