Healthcare lobbying groups criticize public option push

Though presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have led a renewed push for a public insurance option on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, prominent healthcare industry trade groups have not yet warmed to the idea.

Marilyn Tavenner speaking
Marilyn Tavenner

At a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event this week, America’s Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner said the idea is a “huge mistake,” adding that “we need to solve the problems that we have, rather than chasing yet another government program,” The Hill reports.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, echoed Tavenner’s assessment, noting that the government and other stakeholders must first focus on making the ACA exchange market viable, according to Morning Consult. And Steve Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, noted that lawmakers threw out the public option when they enacted the ACA, the article says.

headshot of Rick Pollack
Rick Pollack

Proponents of the public option say that offering a government-sponsored insurance plan on the exchanges would increase competition--a key concern now that some major insurers have dialed back their exchange presence. Even President Barack Obama now supports the idea, noting that such a plan would create savings for the federal government.

Tavenner, though, would rather see the federal government take other steps to stabilize the exchanges first, such as extending the risk corridor and reinsurance programs. She has also said AHIP is working with the Obama administration to design plans that would better appeal to young, healthy consumers.

Meanwhile, newly released data show that in in Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas, market leaders on the ACA exchanges have been granted average premium increases of 30 percent or more, The Wall Street Journal reports. The approved rate increases for the market leader exceed 50 percent in states including Arizona, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Federal health officials, though, have noted that because consumer tax credits rise along with premiums, the majority of exchanges consumers will still have access to affordable coverage.