From Stateline

What Do States Mean When They Say ‘Public Option’?

June 6, 2019

When Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed a law creating a new health plan alternative for Washington state residents, many accounts proclaimed Washington to be the first state with a “public option.”

But the term is difficult to define — even the word “public” is slippery in the context of health care.

When Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed a law creating a new health plan alternative for Washington state residents, many accounts proclaimed Washington to be the first state with a “public option.”

But the term is difficult to define — even the word “public” is slippery in the context of health care.

“Public option means the government being more prescriptive,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, a managing director at Manatt Health, which provides consulting and legal services in health care. “There’s more of the state weighing in.”

In general, when policymakers use the term “public option,” they mean a health plan with significant government control. That might mean programs created and operated by government, as Medicare and Medicaid originally were, or programs largely under government control but run by private entities….

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