Hillary Clinton backs public option for Obamacare | Arkansas Blog

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton backs public option for Obamacare

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 5:26 PM

Politico reports:

Hillary Clinton wants to bring back the public option, offering a competing vision to Bernie Sanders’ support for a more progressive health care system.

Clinton's campaign has updated its website to note her continued support for the government-run health plan that was dropped from Obamacare during the law's drafting. The idea was popular among progressives who prefer a single-payer plan — like the one Bernie Sanders is touting.

Clinton supported a public option during her 2008 presidential campaign and during the fight to pass Obamacare, but the idea was scrapped when Blue Dog Democrats in Congress objected (you might remember a few familiar names) and Clinton hasn't made much mention of the idea in this campaign. Could that be changing? It seems like an obvious play given the leftward tilt of Democratic primary voters this year. And it remains popular nationally. 

The "public option" concept would create a government-run health insurance agency, which would offer plans alongside the private health insurance companies on the Obamacare exchanges. Among the ideas floated were plans that would parallel Medicare in terms of reimbursement rates for providers. 

Here's the update to Clinton's website, apparently made in the last week: 

Continue to support a “public option”—and work to build on the Affordable Care Act to make it possible. As she did in her 2008 campaign health plan, and consistently since then, Hillary supports a “public option” to reduce costs and broaden the choices of insurance coverage for every American. To make immediate progress toward that goal, Hillary will work with interested governors, using current flexibility under the Affordable Care Act, to empower states to establish a public option choice.

What Clinton is suggesting here is that she favors a public option choice for consumers on the Obamacare exchanges, but realizes this is a total impossibility to get through the GOP-controlled Congress. So instead, it sounds like she's hoping to use a waiver provision in Obamacare, known as 1332 waivers, to try to push individual states toward adding a public option. It's not a terrible strategy — if the public option in a swath of states was effective in reducing costs and increasing consumer choice, the policy could spread and eventually build pressure for a similar policy nationally. At the very least, it would be an avenue for reform in the states. While 1332 waivers are often associated with potential conservative policy shifts in states like Arkansas, they are also an avenue for progressive change. 

Of course it's not like a theoretical President Bernie Sanders would oppose Democratic governors using 1332 waivers to add the public option. This is more symbolic than it is news of any policy shift, but it signals that Clinton is aiming to reach out to the left on health care, even if she isn't backing a total do-over for single payer. 

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