A total of three different public options have been offered as amendments to Baucus’ bill. The three public options run the gamut from the robust to the weak.
The best and most robust public option is the one submitted by Senator Rockefeller. It resembles the robust public option originally proposed in the House. It would pay Medicare rates plus 5% for the first three years. Medicare providers would automatically participate in the public option unless they choose to opt out. There is no penalty for providers opting out of Rockefeller’s public option.
The second public option is the one submitted by Senator Schumer and Senator Cantwell. It would add to the Senate Finance Committee’s bill the same public option that passed in Senate HELP Committee. The public option in the Senate HELP Committee’s bill is called the “Community Health Insurance Option.” This public option does not pay modified Medicare rates but its rates “shall not be higher than the average of all Gateway reimbursement rates.”
The final and weakest public option amendment was also submitted by Schumer. It would be his national “level playing field” public option. The government would only provide start up funds to help create a new public option that must follow all the same rules as private insurance companies. Like any private insurance company it would need to negotiate rates and create it’s own provider network from scratch.