Washington became the first state in the country to implement a public option on its individual exchange, with plans launching in the 2021 plan year. Experts say that it’s not yet clear whether the plans, which are available through contracts with carriers including UnitedHealthcare, are slowing premium growth.

Washington’s legislature in July 2019 passed a law, S.B. 5526, creating the public option program, called Cascade Care Select. Democratic officials including Gov. Jay Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler have said that the plans are meant to lower out-of-pocket costs and ensure that there is individual market competition in every county of the state. In 2019, 14 counties had only one option for exchange consumers.

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