Washington first state to approve a public option

By Regence
April 29, 2019

On April 27, Washington became the first state in the country to approve a public option plan for the individual market. A "public option" is a government health insurance plan that competes with health plan choices offered by private health insurers.

Starting in 2021, Washington residents will be able to purchase a public option plan – dubbed Cascade Care – on the state’s health plan website, just like any other plan.

Provider reimbursement rates for the public option plan will be tied to a percentage of Medicare reimbursement rates. What people actually pay for a Cascade Care plan will vary, with subsidies available depending on income.

Regence position

Our goal each legislative session is to advocate for policy positions that we believe will deliver the affordable, high-quality health care that Washington residents deserve.

Regence believes that a health care system administered by the state is not the best answer. But we appreciate that the legislative process is about weighing a variety of perspectives to reach solutions. In the spirit of cooperation, we worked closely with the sponsors of the Washington public option legislation to offer our ideas and industry expertise to develop legislation that addresses the root causes driving the high cost of health care.

This legislation addresses one of the underlying causes of high health care costs by creating a range for provider reimbursement rates. The legislation does not address the other underlying cause: pharmaceutical drug costs.

Going forward

The state will determine the public option plan benefits but contract with one or more private insurers to offer and administer plans.

As always, Regence remains committed to working with policymakers to address affordability and stability in the health insurance market. 

We expect other states will follow Washington’s lead and model similar public option plans.