Whitehouse joins Brown, Bennet, Kaine in urging administration to provide public option to cut health care costs for Americans

03.07.22

A public option, not administered by for-profit insurance companies, would increase competition in the healthcare market and lower prices

washington d.c. – Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to President Biden, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda D. Young, urging them to include a proposal to add a publicly administered health insurance option to the Individual Markets of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the President’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 (FY23).

“A public option would strengthen the ACA by expanding coverage to meet the needs of uninsured Americans and make health care costs more affordable,” write the senators. “Introducing a public option would increase competition between plans without compromising access to services, which could lower the costs of private and public insurance coverage, especially in areas where there are few insurers like rural counties. More generally, adding a public option to the ACA exchanges could help address long-standing inequities in our healthcare system.

The ACA has established health insurance marketplaces to make it easier for consumers to purchase health insurance and encourage insurers to compete on price and quality of their plans. Marketplaces have been extremely successful in helping to extend coverage. While President Biden and Democrats in Congress have passed major legislation like the US bailout to expand the ACA, 31.1 million Americans are still uninsured. A public option would help combat the rising rate of uninsured by stimulating competition and therefore lowering prices, especially in parts of the country where insurers are few.

Whitehouse, Brown, Bennet and Kaine led Senate efforts to create a public health insurance option to strengthen the ACA by ensuring that all Americans have access to a low-cost, high-performance public health insurance option. quality. Whitehouse and Brown also led efforts to include a public option in the ACA and have introduced public option legislation in every Congress since. A public option would promote competition, improve health equity, and ensure access to stable, low-cost, high-quality health insurance plans across the country.

The full text of the letter is available here and lower.

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Dear President Biden, Secretary Becerra, and Acting Director Young,

As you work to finalize the President’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, we encourage you to include a proposal adding a publicly administered health insurance option to individual Affordable Care Act (ACA) contracts. A public option would promote competition, improve health equity, and ensure access to stable, low-cost, high-quality health insurance plans across the country.

The ACA has created health insurance marketplaces to make it easier for consumers to purchase health insurance and encourage insurers to compete on price and quality of their plans. Markets have been extremely effective in expanding access to affordable coverage. For example, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has increased from 16% in 2010 to 9.6% in 2021,[1] with increasing coverage across all racial and ethnic groups.[2] More recently, the American Rescue Plan Act expanded ACA plan premium support, allowing even more people to access affordable, high-quality insurance through ACA exchanges.

Unfortunately, 31.1 million Americans are still uninsured, and coverage disparities persist between Hispanic, Black, Asian, Native American and Alaska Native communities.[3] Many insured Americans also continue to struggle with health care costs. According to a 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 46% of insured adults in the United States struggle to pay their fees and 27% say their deductibles are unaffordable. Moreover, these high costs are disproportionately borne by low-income blacks, Hispanics, and Americans.[4]

A public option would strengthen the ACA by expanding coverage to meet the needs of uninsured Americans and make health care costs more affordable. Federal action is the best strategy to achieve these results, for a variety of reasons.[5] Unlike private for-profit insurers, the federal government has no profit motive and therefore has the tools to keep premiums low and limit other out-of-pocket costs to consumers. Establishing a public option would increase competition between plans without compromising access to services, which could lower the costs of private and public insurance coverage, especially in areas with few insurers. , such as rural counties. Public insurance programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, have also been successful in reducing administrative costs compared to private programs administered by private insurance companies. By allowing the government to leverage its power to negotiate lower prices for all aspects of health care while maintaining access to strong provider networks, a public option could help increase access to care while by reducing its costs.

More broadly, adding a public option to the ACA exchanges could help address long-standing inequities in our healthcare system. Streamlined and coordinated care could generate savings that the federal government could use to further reduce health care costs for all Americans, including the uninsured, low-income, and people of color. A public option also offers the ability to design plans that include non-clinical services such as non-urgent transportation, which would reduce barriers to accessing care and thus improve long-term health outcomes for individuals and patients. underserved communities.

There is growing support for a public option. Three states – Colorado, Nevada and Washington – are in the process of implementing public option-type laws. Nationally, a March 2021 poll found that a public option is supported by 68% of voters, including the majority of Republicans and 80% of Democrats.[6]

The 2020 Biden-Harris presidential campaign is committed to advancing a low-cost, high-quality public health insurance option.[7] We urge you to use the President’s budget for fiscal year 2023 to honor this commitment by including high-quality, low-cost health insurance coverage in your budget proposal. We’re ready to work with you to ensure affordable, quality health coverage is available to all Americans, regardless of income, age, race/ethnicity, disability status, or zip code.

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