Two Bay Area House members have helped introduce a bill to create a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers in the Health Insurance Exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health care reform signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this year.
Reps. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., say the Congressional Budget Office estimates H.R. 5808 would save $68 billion from 2014 to 2020, and that the public option would have, on average, premiums 5 to 7 percent lower than private plans in the Exchanges.
“Today, Consumers Union reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield plans amassed billions in surpluses as they raised rates for millions of Americans,” Stark, who chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a news release issued as the lawmakers held a Capitol Hill news conference today. “This is a good example of why we need a public option – to create an insurance plan that competes based on delivering quality, efficient care, not on delivering profits to shareholders. The result is more competition, better coverage, and lower premiums for millions of Americans.”
Woolsey, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that as the deficit keeps growing, “so does the need for a program that can save billions of dollars and improve health care while doing it. The robust public option offers lower-cost competition to private insurance companies. This will make insurance more affordable for those who do not have it and keep insurance affordable for those who do.”
Among the bill’s 128 original co-sponsors are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.
Absent from that list, for those keeping count, is Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who’s generally thought to be the only Bay Area Democratic incumbent in a tough re-election race this November. However, McNerney serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will be this bill’s first stop, so perhaps we’ll see where he stands on this soon enough.