Media mischaracterizes Cantwell’s Basic Health Plan amendment as ‘quasi public option.’

Several news reports are mischaracterizing Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) ‘Basic Health Plan’ amendment — which would allow states to provide coverage to people with incomes between 133% and 200% of the federal poverty line (about 75% of the uninsured) — as a “quasi public option”:

— “…Finance Committee passed a quasi, state-based public option sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell…” [Politico, 10/1/2009]

— “…the committee voted in favor of a proposal by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to enable states to form their own public options.” [The Hill, 10/1/2009]

— “The Senate Finance Committee narrowly passed an amendment Thursday from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that moves the conservative panel as close as it will likely get to a public health insurance option.” [Huffington Post, 10/1/2009]


Under Cantwell’s proposal, states would use their purchasing power to negotiate for more affordable coverage options, improve efficiencies, and even lower the health care costs within the Exchange (by shifting lower income and disproportionately sicker individuals into the Basic Health Plan), but they would have to contract with private insurers. Cantwell herself “declined to liken her proposal to a controversial public option, which has become a major sticking point in health care reform.” “I think we’ve hit the sweet spot,” she said. “Everybody says they want to have private providers and we’re saying fine.”