I've heard some in the MSM argue that progressives have become too fixated on the issue of a robust public option. The fight to include a public option is not a simply philosophical argument or an insider policy battle. The fight of the public option is inseparable from the fight to make health insurance affordable for middle class Americans.
During his address to Congress, President Obama effectively set a $900 billion ceiling on the size of the health care reform bill. Anything that would make the bill more expensive would need to be offset with cuts. Those cuts almost by default must come in the form of reducing the amount of subsidies/tax credits to help Americans afford insurance or the quality of the insurance.
The National Journal is reporting that the CBO determined the robust public option favored by progressives would save the government $110 billion. A weaker “level playing field” public option would only save $25 billion.
This means removing the robust public option from the House bill would require a corresponding $110 billion reduction in affordablity tax credits. Depending on the final shape of the bill that would be somewhere between a 14%-23% reduction in the amount of tax credits to working class Americans. From different CBO reports (1,2) we know that in 2019 the average tax credit for an enrollee in the exchange, who needs help with affording health insurance, will be between $5,000-$6,000. Eliminating the robust public option would reduce the amount of tax credits to an individual by roughly $1,000.
The CBO also reported that, “on average the [robust] public plan would be about 10 percent cheaper than a typical private plan.”
For a family the robust public option would be roughly $1,300 cheaper in yearly premiums. (This year the average premiums for a family coverage is $13,375)
Not having a robust public option as part of health care reform would make health care dramatically less affordable (or lower quality) for millions of Americans. It would mean denying American families a health insurance option that would be roughly $1,300 cheaper and reducing the size of the average tax credit for an individual by nearly $1,000.
Progressives are fight hard for a strong public option, because they are fighting hard for working class people. A robust public option is critical to making this current health care reform bill affordable for middle income Americans. Not having a robust public option would cost millions of American families thousands of dollars a year.