- The leading health insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), launched an effort last week to mobilize members against the growing push for a public option, which would create a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private plans on the ACA exchanges.
- AHIP's action alert last week asked its members to contact Senate offices and provided a list of talking points to assist in arguments against the public option, The Huffington Post reported.
- The move came within hours of the introduction of a resolution by 27 Senate Democrats, led by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, calling for the public option--an idea that President Barack Obama and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have also recently joined forces to support.
AHIP's swift action suggests the group sees the groundswell of support for a public option from legislators and advocates as a real threat. The concept has essentially come back from the dead after raising major debate during the crafting of the ACA, but subsequently being left out of the health law due to concerns among lawmakers, including some liberals, as well as opposition from industry groups.
Although the tide may now be turning among some Democrats, the current resolution is nonbinding and unlikely to pass, as noted by the Huffington Post, because Republicans, who have the majority, unanimously oppose a public option. The concept is unlikely to be able to overcome Republican opposition any time in the near future, given that Democrats are not expected gain a majority in the House, even if they do win both the presidency and Senate.
In the meantime, AHIP is pressing hard to argue a public option would do nothing to improve the current issues under the health insurance exchanges. The group's talking points center around a need to address the underlying issues making healthcare and health coverage so costly, such as improvements to special enrollment and risk adjustment, preventing third-party payments, and providing greater relief from the health insurance tax.
The threat from a public option is that it is expected to be able to offer cheaper coverage than private payers by using the government's leverage to get lower prices for healthcare, pharmaceuticals and supplies, potentially making it impossible for some private payers to compete.