KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

A Look At The Public Insurance Options — What Exists And Who Would Have Access Under Proposed Reforms

One news outlet studies the practical meaning of public insurance option by examining some of the approaches that are already in existence. Meanwhile, another examines the number of people who would have access to the public plan. And a former insurance executive takes issue with the industry's current stance.

ProPublica: "About a third of Americans already get health care from a publicly administered program. From celebrated programs like the VA's or the military's, to the troubled ones like the Indian Health Services, here's a snapshot of how they actually work." ProPublica assesses TRICARE, the Veterans Health Administration, the Indian Health Service, Healthcare Group of Arizona, Medicare and Medicaid (Shankman, 10/28).

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "lost amid the ideological battle for or against a public option is a key overlooked fact: The vast majority of Americans would have no access to a public option even under its most expansive versions." That's because "House and Senate bills limit the option to the smallest businesses and to individuals who cannot get insurance, or whose health care costs exceed 12.5 percent of their income. Even seven years into an overhaul, an estimated 90 percent of Americans, including nearly everyone who has employer-based coverage now, would be shut out of a public option" (Lochhead, 10/29). 

Meanwhile, Lois Quam, a former executive at UnitedHealth Group, is throwing her support behind the public option, The Star Tribune reports. At a speech at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, Quam "took on the insurance industry head-on, noting that insurers had opposed (unsuccessfully) the creation of Medicare in the 1960s and opposed (successfully) health care reform during the early years of the Clinton administration. Now they're doing it again, she said: 'The insurance industry's actions in the current health care reform debate have too often just been wrong. Their opposition to a public option, and the efforts to protect themselves, rather than Americans, are simply wrong'" (Yee, 10/28).

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