The Case for Public Plan Choice in National Health Reform

Key to Cost Control and Quality Coverage
By Jacob S. Hacker, Ph.D.

Leading political figures, including President-Elect Barack Obama, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, and former-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle are proposing to offer a new public insurance option to Americans who lack employment-based coverage. The public plan would be similar to conventional Medicare (the "public Medicare plan," as distinguished from private plans that contract with Medicare) in that it would be managed by the federal government and pay private providers to deliver care. The public plan would be offered through a new national insurance "exchange," where it would compete with private insurance plans.