2020 Policy Proposals: Inslee on Public Health Insurance Option

public health insurance option, Inslee

The high cost of affordable, quality health care is spurring conversations across the country about how to best implement innovative solutions in order to increase access to care.

Creating a public insurance option — a broad term which encompasses insurance options supported in some way by the government — is increasingly discussed as a way to help lower costs and increase competition.

Related: Quick Takes on 2020 Policy Proposals

While supported by a host of state and national leaders, Washington State has made the most progress in advancing a public option. This past May, presidential hopeful Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) signed a first of its kind bill, which will:

  • Create Cascade Care, a new public-private health insurance option which will be available to Washingtonians at the beginning of 2021; new options will need to meet a to-be-determined set of benefits and out-of-pocket cost criteria
  • Cap most provider payments for services offered through Cascade Care to 160 percent of Medicare as a way to limit total cost of health care
  • Require the state to develop a plan which funds premiums subsidies for those earning up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level

Washington’s public insurance plan has yet to be implemented, and as a result, its impacts are still unknown. However, it’s estimated the premiums for Cascade Care plans will be 5 percent to 10 percent lower than those currently offered on the private market.

A Public Health Care Option in Colorado

To help address our state’s own high health care costs, Colorado is on its own road to creating a state-based public health care option. This past legislative session, legislators passed HB19-1004, which requires Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) and Department of Insurance (DOI) to develop a new public health care option. When creating this new option, officials will need to consider the plan’s affordability, ease of implementation, and financial impact on the state. HCPF and DOI’s proposal will be presented to the legislature this fall, and could be operational as early as 2021.

There are a lot of unknowns about what a public option could look like in Colorado — including who’d be eligible to utilize the option, how much it would save consumers, and what type of public infrastructure the plan would use. Additionally, depending upon the option’s structure and beneficiaries, the plan may need federal approval. DOI and HCPF are holding ongoing stakeholder meetings through the summer to help the state determine the best way forward.

The Bell’s Work on a Public Option

The Bell actively supported HB19-1004 last legislative session, and continues to be involved in the stakeholder process which will shape the recommended option. As a major piece of any family budget, we know quality, affordable health care is pivotal to economic mobility and security.

We believe health care is a part of an essential suite of benefits — which also includes paid family and medical leave and retirement — all individuals need access to, regardless of how they work or who they work for. A quality public option will move our state one step closer to ensuring all Coloradans have access to the health care they need.