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Perspective US Health Care Reform Health Insurance
Robert J. Blendon
John M. Benson
Mary G. Findling
Eric C. Schneider
The Future of Population Health
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In an increasingly polarized era, one health reform policy stands out for its apparent popularity among both Democrats and Republicans: a public health insurance plan intended to compete alongside private health insurance products (the so-called “public option”).1 Depending on the structure of the policy—whether and how monthly premiums are constrained—a public option could promote more vigorous price competition on the individual market for health insurance. Though the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were intended to promote this type of competition and expand insurance access for people who didn’t receive coverage through an employer or a public program, affordability and inadequate insurance have been persistent concerns (notwithstanding recent expansions of financial assistance under the American Recovery Plan Act and Inflation Reduction Act).2 A nationally representative survey conducted in 2022 found that nearly one-quarter of working-age adults had coverage for a full year but were underinsured, meaning their coverage did not provide affordable access to care (based on deductible size or out-of-pocket medical expenses over the prior year).3 Among those who were uninsured at the time of the survey or had experienced a gap in coverage in the prior year, 46% reported that affordability challenges were the main reason they lacked coverage.
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