The deluge of negative news surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, has been met with a call for change from both sides of the aisle.
With healthcare companies moving out of the ACA’s exchanges citing falling profits, counties faced with fewer and fewer options for coverage, and even the regulator in charge of Tennessee’s exchanges saying the system is “very near collapse,” there has been recognition from many politicians that change is needed.
The public option would be a government-backed plan that could enter the public exchanges set up by the ACA to compete with other private insurers in the market. Proponents of the law believe that this would drive down costs for consumers and prevent a situation such as Pinal County, Arizona, where there is projected to be no insurer offering plans through the exchange.
The public option has long been championed by Democratic politicians. It was part of the original Obamacare proposal before being removed to ensure the passage of the bill. A government healthcare option, whether in competition with or replacing private insurance, has been proposed for decades.
In the wake of major health insurance providers Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare all leaving behind a significant majority of their Obamacare exchange business, this has been seen by some on the left as the spark to renew the push for the public option.
“Aetna provides the perfect example of why we need the public option,” Adam Greene, co-founder of the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told Business Insider. “After that we’ve had the two most powerful Democrats — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — come out in support of it, and in many ways it looks like we’re on the way to reform.”
Both President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have reignited their calls for a public option to help alleviate issues with the ACA. Democratic politicians in the House of Representatives and Senate have brought up the issue on the campaign trail as well.
Greene’s group pushed for the inclusion of the public option in the ACA originally, and with the recent news, he views it as the best chance since 2009 to get the policy back on the table.
“We’ve been able to open up political space, to open up the window to this change,” said Greene. “There’s fresh oxygen for a passage of the public option.”
Republicans, however, are not as thrilled. Many Republicans have called for Obamacare to be repealed, including Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Even those that are open to merely adjusting the ACA would most likely be against some form of the public option.
“I mean the question really is, do you want the people that have given you the disaster that is Obamacare even more involved in health insurance,” said Jeffrey Anderson, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute in an interview with Business Insider last week.
Anderson, however, did acknowledge that it would come down to whichever party gained control of both houses of Congress and the presidency first.
“If it’s the Democrats, then we’ll probably get the government run public option, if its Republicans, we’ll get a repeal and replace,” said Anderson.
Like almost everything else in politics there days, however, it appears there will be little movement on the issue until at least after the election in November and the new president, and perhaps more importantly Congress, are installed in January.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.