February 14, 2023 | Updates

Public Option Watch: Forbes: ‘Washington’s Public Option Is Nothing to Cheer About’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As some politicians look to create unaffordable, new government-controlled health insurance systems like the public option, Washington state serves as an example of how unaffordable and ineffective the public option can be. A recent article from Forbes points out that four years after its implementation, Cascade Care remains unaffordable and unpopular for both patients and providers.  

Key points from the article include:  

  • “Cascade Select plans were available in just 19 of Washington’s 39 counties when the public option first launched.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
  • “The state is forcing hospitals to accept the public option’s low payment rates, even if those rates don’t cover their costs.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
    • “To keep premiums low, they pay providers no more than 160% of what Medicare does—lower than the 174% that other plans on the state’s exchanges pay, on average.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
    • “In the first nine months of 2022, operating costs exceeded profits by $1.6 billion. Some have cut essential services. Others may face closure if they don’t stop bleeding money.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
  • “Officials also said the public option would dramatically reduce the number of uninsured Washingtonians. But just 2,630 individuals newly enrolled in a public option plan last year.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
    • “In some parts of the state in 2021, public option premiums were nearly 30% higher than other private insurance premiums.’ (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
    • “Premiums for the average 40-year-old adult are up 8% across the state this year compared to 2022.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 
  • “Just 3% of the state’s exchange enrollees—6,335 people—chose a Cascade Select plan last year. That amounts to less than 0.1% of the state’s population.” (Forbes, 2/13/23) 

Data continues to show that building on our current system is a more effective path to expanding access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care than starting over by creating a public option. Recent polling also shows that the majority of voters prefer improving what we have today over creating a new, government-controlled health insurance system.  



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