Two key congressional committee chairs announced Wednesday they will develop a public option proposal, marking a key development in the fight over healthcare reform.
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate health committee, requested comments from the public Wednesday on how a public option can lower healthcare costs and "dramatically expand coverage."
"As we work to craft legislation, our priority is to establish a federally administered public option that provides quality, affordable health coverage throughout the United States," Pallone and Murray wrote in a request for information.
The healthcare industry, including providers and insurers, vehemently opposes public-option proposals, presenting political obstacles to passing one through the narrow Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
A public option would likely pay providers less than commercial insurance and it would add a new layer of competition to private health plans.
In their request for information, Murray and Pallone wrote that the goal of developing a public option is to "work towards achieving universal coverage."
"In addition to expanding coverage, our goal is to develop a public option that lowers healthcare costs for American families," they wrote.
The chairs asked for information from the public by July 31 about who should be eligible for a public option and whether it should be made available to all individuals or just those eligible for the Affordable Care Act marketplace; how prices for healthcare services should be determined; what type of premium assistance should be provided by the government; and how the public option should interact with other public programs, including Medicaid and Medicare.
Several other public option bills have already been introduced in the House and Senate, but Pallone's and Murray's leadership could put more force behind a proposal.
President Joe Biden also endorsed a public option on the campaign trail.