Colorado state officials struck a compromise with the healthcare industry not to establish a state public option, which raises questions about the political feasibility of the healthcare reform proposal.
Colorado state Democrat legislators announced Monday they had struck a deal to scrap plans to establish a public option and instead mandate lower health insurance premiums for Coloradans to buy insurance on the individual or small-group markets.
A public option would allow for government-run health insurance plans to compete against private health insurance plans.
Healthcare experts such as Sally Pipes, the president of the Pacific Research Institute, said a public insurance option competing alongside private insurance would eventually crowd out private health insurance because government-run insurance could operate on a “loss indefinitely.”
Others in the healthcare sphere say that establishing a public option faces high obstacles because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sarah McAfee, director of communications for the pro-public option Center for Health Progress, said, “It is much more difficult now that we have this narrative of the health care heroes.”
She added, “Part of this is separating the two: The people who are providing the health care are not the same as the corporations who are focused on the bottom line.”
Other states, such as Connecticut, Nevada, and Oregon, continue to consider establishing a public option; however, Colorado’s plan to shutter their public option may serve as a sign that establishing one may face significant resistance, especially from the hospital, health provider, and health insurance industries.
President Joe Biden championed the public option during the 2020 presidential election; however, he has yet to push for passing legislation that would create a national public option plan. So far, he has pushed for enhancing Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies in his coronavirus relief legislation and extending the special enrollment period for the ACA.
Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University, said, “Nationally, there’s little appetite to pursue policies that would potentially cut revenues for hospitals and other providers. It’s very hard to do when the public sees these providers as true heroes.”
Colorado State Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-CO), the bill’s lead sponsor, said lowering health insurance premiums is more important than a public option.
“Health care access is the No. 1 thing I hear from my constituents,” he explained. “Do they care whether their health insurance product is coming from a public entity or a private insurance company? I don’t think they care as much about that as whether it’s affordable.”