From an email I received earlier today from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin:
Last night, the Senate Finance Committee added a public option to their version of health insurance reform legislation.
Under the Committee’s plan, people with incomes within a certain range who do not receive insurance through work will be eligible to enroll.
The new plan, introduced by Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, would give states the option of setting up their own plans and negotiating with providers on payment fees.
It goes without saying I’m a supporter of the public option as a necessary part of any meaningful health care reform legislation, but to label Sen. Cantwell’s amendment as a true public option is more than a little misleading, since it would require states to negotiate with health insurance companies for better rates, instead of allowing states to provide true competition to health insurance companies. What’s more, Sen. Cantwell’s amendment seems to be based largely on the Basic Health plan in Washington State, a plan that’s not without its share of serious problems:
[I]n Washington, the state’s Basic Health plan has had a rocky history, especially given the recent economic crisis.
Premium prices have soared since the program was first created in 1993. And yet, a number of insurance carriers have dropped out. Enrollment numbers have also declined.
In recent months, the state has moved to push as many as 40,000 people off of its rolls because of budget cuts. And premiums for some poor people will double in January.
Clearly, the Cantwell amendment isn’t a true public option, nor does it appear to be the solution to driving down costs and making health insurance more affordable.