It’s not the public health insurance option progressives fought for during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act, but it is close.
The Obama administration is preparing to have the federal government take a more prominent role in health care reform by sponsoring two new multi-state health insurance plans that will be available for individuals and small businesses to purchase under the state exchanges created by Obamacare. Those exchanges launch in 2014.
As reported in the New York Times, the national plans will compete directly with other private insurance plans. Premiums and benefits for the federal plans will be negotiated by the United States Office of Personal Management, the same agency that oversees benefits for federal employees — employees like congressional representatives. The details of these plans have yet to be finalized, but if conservative concern over the plans is any indication, progressives may have scored more of a victory than we first realized with Obamacare.
Robert E. Moffit, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the New York Times that he worried that “the nationwide health plans, operating under terms and conditions set by the federal government, will become the robust public option that liberals always wanted.” That’s because the federal government will be able to create larger groups of insured to leverage the most advantageous coverage. Opponents of these plans argue this tilts the balance of power to the government’s benefit in the market while supporters note this simply allows individuals who had previously been unable to collectively bargain for coverage to do so fairly.
While the creation of these multi-state exchanges are certainly a step in the right direction, and holds a lot of promise, women are once again being short-changed in the coverage thanks to anti-choice politicking over abortion access. So while conservatives love to insist taxpayer dollars subsidize abortion under Obamacare, that is simply not the case.
The federal health care law stipulates that at least one of the multi-state plans offered must provide insurance without coverage for abortion services. For those plans that do cover abortions, those plans must establish separate accounts, one for abortion services and one for all other medical services. That means additional burden and expense built in for women needing comprehensive insurance coverage, even at the federal level.
On the whole, though, so long as the American health insurance industry insists on a grouping risk and benefits, and so long as Congress seems unwilling to seriously take on the issue of breaking the health insurance monopolies of care, then these multi-state plans are the best way of providing the best coverage to the most people at the most affordable cost. And it’s just another reminder of what is at stake in this election.
Photo from chimothy27 via flickr.