The CBO recently published a new letter on health care reform. They were asked to evaluate the impact of the weak (level playing field) public option in the Senate HELP committee's bill. Their conclusion was that the competitive pressure from the public option “would probably lower private premiums in the insurance exchanges to a small degree,” and with a public plan in the exchange “the costs and premiums of competing private plans would, on average, be slightly lower than if no public plan was available.” By reduce the cost of buying private insurance on the exchange, a public plan, “would tend to lower federal subsidy payments through the exchanges.”
It is important to remember that the premimums for an average health insurance plan for a family of four is $13,000 a year. Even reducing the cost by a very small 4% would saving a family $520.
The benefits of the public option would not be restricted to just the minority of people who choose to sign up for it. The public option would also reduce premiums for those choosing private plans. The public option would also reduce the overall government cost of health care reform.
Progressives are not fighting for a public option for some purely ideological reason. They are fighting for it because Congress' own budget office concluded that even a weak public option would reduce the cost of health care reform and would save millions of Americans billions of dollars on their health insurance premiums, regardless if they select a private or public plan. A public option is both a smart and a very popular idea.