January 30, 2023 | News

NPR: The 1st public option health plan in the U.S. struggles to gain traction

As lawmakers in Washington work to create policies that expand access to affordable, high-quality health care coverage, NPR reports that Washington state’s public option health care system is proving to be unpopular and unaffordable.

Washington’s stumble out of the gate reflects the difficulty of lowering health care costs while working within the current system. Legislators originally wanted to cut payment rates to hospitals and other providers much more, but they raised the cap in the legislation so hospitals wouldn’t oppose the bill. Now, it’s unclear whether the payment cap is low enough to reduce premiums.

“That’s kind of the big trade-off,” said Aditi Sen, a health economist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “You are trying to lower premiums enough that people will enroll but not so much that providers won’t participate.”

That will be a challenge for any state or federal public option plan. There are only so many ways to lower premiums. Hospitals, doctors and other health care professionals have pushed back hard against any cuts in their payment rates, while insurance plans balk at plans that could eat into their profits.

Plans can reduce the size of their provider network to save money, but consumers dislike plans that limit which doctor they can see. Public option plans could rely on existing public health programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, which already pay lower rates than commercial insurance, but government-run insurance plans carry negative connotations for many consumers.

Read the full article on NPR.


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