As the coronavirus pandemic overtook the tail end of the Democratic primary season, attention rapidly shifted from examining the nuances of the differences between the candidates’ healthcare platforms to simply demanding a response to the pandemic. Beyond addressing the immediate crisis, however, lie many questions about the weaknesses of our current healthcare system, and how we will address them in the long run.  These questions should be at the forefront of voters’ minds as we head into the election this fall. 

One of the major weaknesses in our system is that we do not have universal healthcare. Importantly, virtually all of the Democratic candidates called for making healthcare a right in the U.S. This is a key first step toward universal healthcare.  Their approaches to achieving this varied, however. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called for “Medicare for All,” but most of the other candidates, including Joe Biden, have pushed for some kind of public option. The public option has faced criticism that it will simply maintain the status quo. This criticism inspired me to write this blog, because a large-scale public option program could actually help to reshape the US healthcare system and result in improvements in access to care in this country, ultimately getting us to universal healthcare.

What is a public option?

A public option is a health insurance plan (or plans) sold by the government and available to all Americans, regardless of income, age, or other personal characteristics. It competes with private insurance, rather than supplanting it. The public option idea has been kicking around for some time. It was originally included in the Affordable Care Act but was dropped due to strong opposition from Republicans, moderate Democrats, and health care interest groups.

Would a public option constrain runaway costs?

A public option is likely to challenge the prices

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