A bill sponsored by three influential House Democrats aims to resurrect what was left out of the final health reform bill: a public option. Congressional actuaries are estimating this latest proposal would save approximately $68 billion over the next 20 years.
Key House leaders restart push for public option
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Ill.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, held a news conference to release details of the legislation.
"The robust public option offers lower-cost competition to private insurance companies," Woolsey said at the news conference. "This will make insurance more affordable for those who do not have it and keep insurance affordable for those who do."
Their aim is to establish a “robust” public option, which historically has referred to a plan based on Medicare reimbursement rates, in the health exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
According to an analysis of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office, the public insurance option would be administered by HHS, basing payment rates for hospitals and other providers on the same amounts that would be paid under Medicare, on average.
Physician payment rates under the public plan would not be subjected to future reductions required by Medicare's sustainable growth rate—instead, those rates would initially increase by 5% then rise annually to reflect estimated increases in physician costs, the CBO reported. Healthcare providers would not be required to participate in the public plan in order to participate in Medicare.
Payment rates for prescription drugs would be established through negotiation.
The CBO estimates the public plan's premiums will be 5% to 7% lower on average than the premiums of private plans offered in the reform law's health insurance exchanges.
The bill will be referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
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