House Democrats Revive Health Care Public Option To Reduce Deficit

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The public option is back … sort of.

House Democrats on Tuesday introduced the “Public Option Deficit Reduction Act,” which would provide consumers the choice to opt into a government-run health insurance plan in the Obamacare exchanges.

The bill, which almost certainly cannot pass in the Republican-controlled House, is a mostly symbolic effort meant to keep the public option alive as a policy prescription. It is sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who is on the Energy & Commerce health subcommittee, along with Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and 43 other lawmakers.

“The Public Option Deficit Reduction Act will give health care consumers more choice and lower their premiums,” said Schakowsky. “And, by providing a lower-cost alternative to private insurance, it would put pressure on all insurers to lower their premiums in order to compete.”Citing an earlier estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Schakowsky expects it to reduce the deficit by some $100 billion over 10 years by boosting competition among insurers and paying providers at Medicare rates. The 2010 version of the public option was expected to reduce the debt by $68 billion over 10 years.

The provision, a cause célèbre during the health care reform debate, was pushed hard by liberals but omitted in the final stretch of negotiations over Obamacare amid strong opposition from the health industry and conservative lawmakers in both parties. Democrats tried and failed to revive it months after the law passed, and it has been a dead issue since 2011.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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