Breaking: Public Option in House Reconciliation Bill
This afternoon the House Budget Committee reported The Reconciliation Act of 2010 to the House of Representatives by a vote of 21 yays to 16 nays. Included in the release is a Public Health Insurance Option on page 116.
The Public Option appears to have made it into the last incarnation of a reconciliation bill in the US House. There has been immense pressure for 10 months over this component to health care reform, with those on the right comparing to socialized medicine and those on the left considering their fall back position, their line in the sand.
On page 116 of the document, released in pdf form and available for everyone to read on the budget.house.gov website, it reads:
Subtitle B- Public Health Insurance Option
Section 221. Establishment and Administration of a Public Health Insurance Option as an Exchange-Qualified Health Benefits Plan.
(a) Establishment – For years beginning with Y1, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall provide for the offering of an Exchange-participating health benefits plan that ensures choice, competition, and stability of affordable, high quality coverage throughout the United States in accordance with this subtitle. In designing the option, the Secretary’s primary responsibility is to create a low cost plan without compromising quality of access to care.
(b) Offering as an Exchange-Participating Health Benefits Plan.
1. The public health insurance option shall only be made available through the Health Insurance Exchange.
2. The Public Option shall ensure a level playing field.
3. The public Option shall offer basic, enhanced, and premium plans.
Soon after, it continues:
Section 222. Premiums and Financing
(a) (1) The Secretary shall establish geographically-adjusted premium rates for the public option.
If this is correct, that would translate into a version of the Public Option where prices would not be dictated by the very health insurance corporations who have jacked up prices over and over over the last decade. Premiums have shot up 90% since Bush was elected in 2000. Last year, the profits of the top 5 giants (Wellpoint, UnitedHealth, Cigna, Aetna, and Humana) rose by 56%. The cost of health insurance is projected to nearly double again by 2020 with the lack of real reform. To protect their scheme, these corporations have fought hard to preserve their hold on highly consolidated markets, and keep any version of a Public Option out of the plan.
Whether or not there are the necessary votes to pass the reconciliation bill are a matter of some debate. Never the less, the inclusion of a Public Health Insurance Option certainly seems to be a big win for reformers.