When the Affordable Care Act was still a bill, rather than a law, one of its most notable provisions was a policy known as the “public option.” As regular readers probably recall, the idea was to create a public, non-profit health insurer that would compete with private insurance companies for consumers’ business, along the lines of the educational model in which public and private universities compete in the same space.
Then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) eventually killed the provision, but a few months ago, the public option made a comeback – when Hillary Clinton added the idea to her campaign platform.
Of course, one of the questions at the time was whether Clinton would stick to her support. It’s one thing to tout an idea popular with progressive voters in February, as the Democratic primaries and caucuses were just getting underway, but would Clinton follow through as she shifts her attention to the general election?
Apparently, yes. Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday:
At a campaign stop Monday in Northern Virginia, Hillary Clinton reiterated her support for a government-run health plan in the insurance market, possibly by letting let Americans buy into Medicare, to stem the rise of health-care costs.“I’m also in favor of what’s called the public option, so that people can buy into Medicare at a certain age,” the Democratic presidential front-runner said during a roundtable with local residents at the Mug’N Muffin coffee shop. “Which will take a lot of pressure off the costs.”
The same report noted that Clinton aides are considering a couple of possible avenues, including “letting Americans not yet of retirement age buy into the Medicare system,” in addition to the creation of “a separate government-run option on the Obamacare exchanges.”
This is encouraging on more levels than one. As a substantive matter, for example, both a government-run ACA option and a Medicare buy-in are worthwhile proposals that would help lower costs through competition, all while giving consumers expanded choices.
And as a political matter, this serves as a reminder that Clinton, even as she turns her attention to the general election, isn’t giving up on some key progressive priorities.
It obviously won’t be easy for the Clinton campaign to win over Bernie Sanders’ most ardent supporters, but the more the Democratic frontrunner champions policies like the public option, the more likely it is Sanders’ policy-focused backers will come around in the fall.