- While offering few details, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said he would like to try a public option at the state level, California Healthline reports.
- The idea of a publicly run health plan operating alongside private insurers in government exchanges was debated during negotiations on the ACA, but ultimately defeated in large part due to push back from the insurance industry.
- However, the departures of UnitedHealth Group and roll back of several other large payers from the individual insurance exchanges have renewed interest in the public option.
“I think we should strongly consider a public option in California,” Jones told California Healthline. “It will require a lot of careful thought and work, but I think it’s something that out to be on the table because we continue to see this consolidation in an already consolidated health insurance market.”
Jones acknowledged that there would be “significant reservations” about a state-run program, but said there are numerous governance models that might work.
With a Democratic-controlled statehouse in Sacramento, the proposal could stand a chance. Any proposal would likely need state legislation, federal approval, and a solid funding source.
Katherine Hempstead, who heads health insurance coverage work at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told California Healthline that a public option could prompt other insurers to exit the state, leaving the public option as the only option.
The state exchange, Covered California, has fared better than many states under Obamacare, with 11 payers participating in 2017. Enrollees in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County can choose from six to seven insurers, though 7.4% of the exchange’s 1.4 million members will have just two plan options next year.
President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton recently joined forces to revive the possibility of a public option, saying it could enhance competition in the insurance marketplaces.