California Insurance Commissioner supports state-level public option

As large insurers step out of many of the federal exchanges, the state is looking to lead the way with alternative options.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones supports a new state-level strategy that could enhance health insurance marketplace competition. The intention is to implement a public option within the state which could possibly make California a guinea pig for launching similar ideas in the rest of the country.

“I think we should strongly consider a public option in California,” said Jones.

California Insurance Commissioner Jones explained that the state is not yet ready to jump right into the concept but that it is worth investigating and attempting. “It will require a lot of careful thought and work, but I think it’s something that ought to be on the table because we continue to see this consolidation in an already consolidated health insurance market,” he said.

On a federal level, President Barack Obama and many other Democrats have brought public option strategies back into the spotlight. This is a direct response to the withdrawal of several major health insurance companies such as UnitedHealth Group and Aetna Inc. The goal is to boost competition within the individual insurance market to counteract the rapidly increasing rate trends. At the moment, many consumers are seeing double-digit increases to their premiums.

The California Insurance Commissioner wants to act sooner rather than later to enhance the coverage market.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, one of the many areas of controversy and debate was in pitting private insurers against publicly run plans in government insurance exchanges. The insurers, themselves, were in strong opposition of the concept. Those opposed to the exchanges were concerned that the outcome could be a fully government-run program.

That said, until now, the majority of public option discussions have concentrated on a nationwide strategy, not a state-based plan. California Insurance Commissioner Jones has started tinkering with the idea of what his state could do with its own public option. He has admitted that the concept is still in its very early stages. Moreover, it is not yet possible to know exactly how it would be implemented or operated. Still, “I don’t want to begin to prejudge it,” he said.

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