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Looking Ahead at Health Plan Options


By: Chris Woodward

Former Vice President Joe Biden wants to expand ObamaCare by adding a public option or a government-run health insurance plan to the exchanges. The idea is to increase competition and bring down prices.

A public option is not a new idea; some Democrats called for one when the Affordable Care Act was being written and debated.

"That was not included in ObamaCare, at least not completely, and so they've been whining about that ever since, and Biden wants to put that in," says Merrill Matthews, Ph.D. of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI). "What we don't know is whether or not the deductibles will be the same, whether the co-pays would be the same, [or] what would be different from that, but it's essentially a government-run health insurance option to compete with private insurance."

Critics of a public option have long argued that it would just be laying the groundwork for a single-payer healthcare system -- something Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has called for in his Medicare for All plan.

"Joe Biden's plan is much less clear, as it only has basic elements on there about increasing subsidies and so forth," says Dr. Matthews. "But he essentially wants to keep ObamaCare, and we don't know how much that's going to cost us the taxpayers."

The Trump administration has suggested it is going to come out with a plan but says a vote on that can wait until after the 2020 election. That also depends on Republicans retaking control of the Senate and the House. Even then, Republicans would have to come together on the plan. Several bills were introduced and voted on in 2017 and 2018 prior to Democrats winning the majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

"Republicans still do not have a plan," says Matthews. "There is a plan out there that's been supported by former Senator Rick Santorum (D-PA) that has a lot of conservatives backing it, and it has some elements in there that probably would not completely repeal ObamaCare but might give states much more flexibility to do various things aside from ObamaCare."

While he says candidates are "not being all that helpful in finding out what plans are going to look like," Dr. Matthews recommends voters do their homework.