5.26.21 / Press Releases

Americans Continue To Reject The Unaffordable Public Option

WASHINGTON – As some Washington politicians propose creating an unaffordable new government-controlled health insurance system known as the public option, polling shows that Americans prefer to improve upon our current health care system and similar proposals are being rejected in states.

“A large and growing body of research shows that the public option would come with unaffordable new costs, take coverage choices away from consumers and threaten access to the quality care Americans need. Polls consistently show that Americans prefer to build on our current health care system rather than creating the public option, and public option proposals are being rejected at the state level,” said Lauren Crawford Shaver, the Partnership’s executive director. “Our health care system is working today to expand access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care to millions of Americans. Especially as the federal government implements the largest expansion of affordable coverage in more than a decade and momentum grows behind making these coverage enhancements permanent, lawmakers should build and improve on our current health care system – not start over with a one-size-fits-all system such as the public option.”

Polling Shows Americans Prefer Building On Our Current Health Care System Over Creating The Public Option

  • The vast majority of voters prefer for lawmakers to build on the current health care system rather than starting over with a new government-controlled health insurance system such as the public option, finds the sixth edition of Voter Vitals – a nationwide tracking poll conducted by Locust Street Group for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future. The survey also finds most voters are unwilling to pay any more in taxes to create the public option and are concerned about its impact on access to quality care. 
  • The findings of Voter Vitals track closely with those of other national polling, including a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), which reveals that the majority of Americans have a favorable view of current health care law and want the Biden Administration and Congress to build on what’s working in health care, where private coverage, Medicare, and Medicaid work together to expand access to health coverage and care. 

The Public Option Could Increase Taxes, Federal Spending and Deficits

  • Require a more than $2,800 a year payroll tax increase for working families during an economic shock such as a recession. (Church, Tom, et al. “Economic Shocks and Probable Expansions to a Public Option.” The Partnership For America’s Health Care Future, 3 Feb. 2021)
  • Cost $800 billion over 10 years, and in the case of an economic shock, cost an additional $132 billion over 10 years.(Church, Tom, et al. “Economic Shocks and Probable Expansions to a Public Option.” The Partnership For America’s Health Care Future, 3 Feb. 2021)
  • Become the third largest federal program after Medicare and Social Security.(Church, Tom, et al. “Economic Shocks and Probable Expansions to a Public Option.” The Partnership For America’s Health Care Future, 3 Feb. 2021)
  • Require increasing the hospital insurance payroll tax by 180 percent in 2050.(Church, Tom, et al. “Economic Shocks and Probable Expansions to a Public Option.” The Partnership For America’s Health Care Future, 3 Feb. 2021)

The Public Option Could Harm Access, Choice and Outcomes

  • Americans could expect to pay 10 percent more on health care premiums. (“How a Medicare Buy-In or Public Option Could Threaten Obamacare,” Reed Abelson, The New York Times, 29 July 2019)
  • Lead to largest ever cut to hospitals — $800 billion. (“The Impact of Medicare-X Choice on Coverage, Healthcare Use, and Hospitals.” KNG Health Consulting, 12 March 2020)
  • Put up to 55% of rural hospitals — more than 1,000 — at high risk of closure. (“The Impact of Medicare-X Choice on Coverage, Healthcare Use, and Hospitals.” KNG Health Consulting, 12 March 2020)
  • “Negatively impact access to and quality of care…through elimination of services and reduction of clinical staff.”(“The Impact of Medicare-X Choice on Coverage, Healthcare Use, and Hospitals.” KNG Health Consulting, 12 March 2020)
  • Create two-tier system with ESI providing access to different providers than the public option.(Assessing the Impact of a Public Option on Market Stability and Consumer Choice,” FTI Consulting, 18 Nov. 2019)

The Public Option Could Disrupt Coverage and Care

  • Force up to 2 million Americans off their current coverage. (Assessing the Impact of a Public Option on Market Stability and Consumer Choice,” FTI Consulting, 18 Nov. 2019)
  • Leave 8 million Americans without a private coverage option.(Assessing the Impact of a Public Option on Market Stability and Consumer Choice,” FTI Consulting, 18 Nov. 2019)
  • Disrupt access to care for millions who currently have ESI.(The Impact of Medicare-X Choice on Coverage, Healthcare Use, and Hospitals.” KNG Health Consulting, 12 March 2020)
  • Cover fewer uninsured people than current law.(The Impact of Medicare-X Choice on Coverage, Healthcare Use, and Hospitals.” KNG Health Consulting, 12 March 2020)

Americans Are Also Rejecting The Public Option On The State Level

  • Connecticut: “Proponents of a measure that would create a public option insurance plan for small businesses and nonprofits said Friday that the proposal will be shelved for a third consecutive year because Gov. Ned Lamont threatened not to sign the bill if it passed the General Assembly,” reports the CT Mirror.
  • Colorado: “Colorado Democrats drop public health insurance option to pursue state-regulated plan instead after industry pushback,” reports the Colorado Sun.
  • Washington: “Only one other state, Washington, has implemented a public option plan, after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a version into law in 2019. The first open enrollment period that included the public option began earlier this year. Progress toward reducing the number of uninsured has been low — fewer than 1,900 Washington residents signed up for one of the public option plans, known as Cascade Care, offered by five different private insurers, out of 222,000 people who signed up for new plans this year,” reports The Hill.
    • Notably, the “public option plans offered through Washington’s Affordable Care Act exchange cost as much as 29% more than traditional plans,” Bloomberg reports.


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