It’s Time To Try the Public Option

The idea is for a health plan created by the government to compete with commercial insurers in a market. Originally part of the ACA, political pressure caused it to be taken out. So, we don’t know if it would work, right? Wrong, says John Baackes, the CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan, which just happens to be the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan serving over two million members.

Writing in the Hill, Baackes says that while he has some doubts about the single-payer and/or Medicare-for-all ideas currently being discussed in the public forum because they would stifle competition and the breakthroughs that come with it, he happens to know that the public option works because he’s been there, done that.  

L.A. Care, formed in 1997, applied in 2014 to be offered on the ACA individual market exchange Covered California. The idea was to insure those who made too much money for Medicaid, yet could not obtain employer-sponsored coverage. Subsidies offered under the ACA allows Covered California beneficiaries to be covered at low cost.

“I appreciated that I have to look over my shoulder to see what the commercial plans are doing so we can remain competitive,” writes Baackes, who also serves on the boards of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Medicaid Health Plans of America, and the California Association of Health Plans. “And I am sure my commercial counterparts are looking at L.A. Care with a wary eye now that we have moved up in market share.”

And how L.A. Care has moved up. With 86,000 beneficiaries, L.A. Care is now the largest of the six HMO plans available in Los Angeles County through Covered California.