Health care public option

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In the context of health care reform discussions in the United States, the public option would be a medical payment service or insurance offered directly by government, rather than by insurance companies or not-for-profit health care cooperatives. Depending on the discussion, it might be a single-payer service such as the Canadian or British model, but more commonly is assumed to be an alternative to private services.

There already are several public payment services, including Medicare, but they are available only to certain populations. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is not a public option program, but a cooperative.

Health Care Reform under Barack Obama

President Barack Obama made reform of America's health care system one of his priorities in his first year in office. Social liberals among the president's own Democratic Party favor inclusion of a public option program for poor Americans or for those unable to find affordable health insurance on the private market. However, inclusion of a public option is considered anathema to conservative politicians in Congress on political and financial grounds.

The Baucus bill does not contain it. Barack Obama has indicated he would prefer to have a multi-payer public option but will compromise.

Opinion polls show divergent results about the question whether the American public would prefer a public option to be included in a health care overhaul. However, most scientific polls suggest that a substantial majority of American citizens favor the creation of a public option.[1][2] Only the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports found less than majority support for the public option.[3]


  1. Nate Silver (2009-06-06). Public Support for the Public Option. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved on 2010-03-09.
  2. Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, June 2009. Retrieved March 9, 2010
  3. Rasmussen Reports (2009-06-15). 41% Favor Public Sector Health Care Option, 41% Disagree. Rasmussen Reports. Retrieved on 2010-03-09.