Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee approved the first health insurance “public option” in the U.S. on Monday.
Inslee can now boast that he is the only Democratic presidential candidate to enact such a measure.
The provision, dubbed “Cascade Care,” is meant to introduce more competition into the Obamacare marketplaces, particularly in counties where only one health insurer offers coverage and at a time in which the state has faced double-digit premium hikes. Proponents said that premiums for the plans will be about 10% less expensive than what people are paying for Obamacare plans now, and will achieve that rate by paying doctors and hospitals less.
The plans will be paid for by the state government and administered by private health insurers, so they differ from the proposals members of Congress have introduced so far, in which people would be able to buy into Medicaid or into an expanded Medicare program.
The public option will become available in Washington beginning after the election, in 2021, and will be available to people even if they get medical coverage through a job.
The public option was in a draft of Obamacare when it was being deliberated in Congress, but it was defeated in 2009 by centrist members of the party. Since then, Democrats have viewed the public option, or “buy-in,” as unfinished business on healthcare reform.
Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate who have co-sponsored public option bills include Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Former Vice President Joe Biden also backs the proposal but hasn’t elaborated on the details.