THE PUBLIC OPTION DEFEATED
- The Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), the House bill, would have created a public health insurance option to be offered in a national health insurance exchange. The national insurance exchange would have included both private insurance plans as well as a public option for individuals and small employers “to find and purchase quality and affordable health insurance in every state.” This Act and the public option, which were initially passed by the House, were defeated when the House passed the Senate plan in order to avoid a Republican filibuster once the Democrats lost its 60 vote majority in the Senate.
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), the Senate bill and the Act that finally passed and was signed into law, does not include a public option. Instead, it creates state health insurance exchanges that include multiple private plans but no public option. The Office of Personnel Management, the same office that administers health benefits for federal employees and members of Congress, may contract with private insurers to also offer multi-state plans in each Exchange. These multi-state plans will be in direct competition with state private insurance plans. At least one of the OPM administered plans must be non-profit, at least one must not cover abortion (the others may cover abortion), and each multi-state plan offered would have to meet all the state's qualifications for health insurance. A state may opt-out of allowing abortion coverage ifs its government passes a law specifically banning coverage by plans participating in its Insurance Exchange.
- The public option was viewed to be essential for keeping the premiums of private insurance companies affordable by providing competition and an alternative. It would have ensured there was an affordable option for individuals or families who do not have health insurance access and for small businesses currently without health insurance coverage for their employees.
Updated May 6, 2010
1. White House , Women for Health Insurance Reform, Summer 2009 (www.whitehouse.gov).
2. National Partnership for Women and Families.
3. National Women's Law Center.
4. U.S. Census Bureau.
5. America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200).
6. Women and Health Care Reform (www.womenhealthcarereform.org).
7. Affordable Health Choices Act [S. 1679].