PUBLIC OPTION LAUNCH — Five health insurance companies will participate in Washington state’s public option plan during its first year, the state health department announced.
The public option, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law in 2019, seeks to lower premiums by standardizing benefits and limiting provider charges to roughly 160 percent of what Medicare pays for the same service. So far, insurers are offering this plan in roughly half of the state’s 39 counties, but they have yet to finalize negotiations with providers, so the big hurdle — persuading major hospitals to sign on — has yet to be cleared.
And it’s not necessarily true that these plans will have the lowest premiums. Some of the non-standard plans can be roughly 10 percent cheaper, according to an analysis from the Public Option Institute. These rates, however, are preliminary and could change before open enrollment begins in the fall. The state projected public option premiums would be 5 percent to 10 percent cheaper.
Inslee said in May that his administration will take a "preliminary approach" to the public option in its first year, and he expects it will take a "multi-year effort" to build up the government-run alternative to private coverage.