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Disguising The Public Option

The New York Times Prescriptions blog details the ongoing negotiations on national health reform, specifically, how to include a public insurance option that feels public, but technically, isn't.

Reporter David Herszenhorn writes that the compromise might be a program based on the hightly-touted insurance plan offered to federal employees:

The federal employees health plan offers federal workers an array of different private insurance plans, including fee-for-service plans, with preferred provider networks and lower cost HMOs. Several of the plans are national in scope – the most popular is a national Blue Cross plan – and benefits are portable, from state to state, and usually can be carried into retirement.

An easy-to-use Web site serves as a portal for federal employees looking to compare the plans available to them.

Although the plans are all private, the fact that the program is regulated by legislation, overseen by a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, and serves federal workers gives it the aura of public insurance even though it is not public insurance. And giving many Americans the same coverage as members of Congress is a politically potent – and appealing – concept for both lawmakers and the people they serve.

This program aired on December 8, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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