Verma attacks public option with same ferocity as attacks on 'Medicare for All'

Seema Verma press conference
Seema Verma said a public option for the ACA could destroy private competition on the ACA's insurance exchanges.

Top administration official Seema Verma has typically criticized “Medicare for All,” but she trained her fire this past week on another Democratic healthcare reform: the public option.

Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said that the public option has been branded a “moderate” alternative to the single-payer system of “Medicare for All.” Centrist Democrats running for president such as former Vice President Joe Biden have pointed to the public option, where the government sells individual plans, as a pathway to enhancing the Affordable Care Act.

“But simply calling something moderate doesn’t make it so,” she wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. “Whether conceived as an expansion of Medicare or the creation of a government health-care option, the public option is a Trojan horse with single-payer hiding inside.”

Free Daily Newsletter

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceHealthcare!

The healthcare sector remains in flux as policy, regulation, technology and trends shape the market. FierceHealthcare subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, analysis and data impacting their world. Sign up today to get healthcare news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

RELATED: Harvard researchers: 'Medicare for All' wouldn't overwhelm hospitals

Verma said that the public option would push consumers off private plans and reduce choice in the individual insurance market.

“The absence of accountability to consumers would slow innovation in public programs to a glacial pace,” she wrote. “It can take Medicare years to recognize new technology that private insurance already covers.”

Former President Obama tried to get a public option added to the ACA when it was passed in 2010, but it was scrapped at the last minute to get the legislation through the Senate.

Healthcare likely to dominate next week's Democratic debates

The second round of Democratic primary debates is set to take place on CNN on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, with 10 presidential candidates squaring off each night.

The first night features a progressive showdown between Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Several lesser-known Democratic centrist candidates such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also round out the slate of challengers.

RELATED: Experts highlight the many cost questions around 'Medicare for All' at hearing

The second night will feature frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden take on Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey among several others.

The second night will also include several progressive candidates such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Sanders, Biden renew spat over ‘Medicare for All’

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden reignited their war of words over “Medicare for All” this past week, with Sanders’ staff calling out Biden for using “scare tactics.”

The latest tiff started when Biden said earlier this week that at least Sanders’ campaign was being honest about the tax increases needed to pay for “Medicare for All,” which expands Medicare to all Americans and abolishes private insurance.

RELATED: Joe Biden releases plan that strengthens ACA while dinging 'Medicare for All'

Sanders' senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement on Wednesday that Biden hasn't employed the same honesty, noting that Biden has used the “same insurance company scare tactics that were used against the Affordable Care Act."

Weaver, who ran Sanders’ 2016 primary campaign, said that Biden’s plan to enhance the ACA was pro-industry and would leave more than 10 million uninsured.

Suggested Articles

A handful of major healthcare groups and vendors are throwing their weight behind ONC's information blocking proposal.

Employers are rethinking their approach to health benefit design to curb costs—and to stay competitive in a tight job market, a new report shows.

Rebates for Part D drugs grew from 2011 to 2015 but not enough to offset price spikes, a study found.