The 'Public Option' Fix: Let States Do It

Last Updated Nov 18, 2009 10:50 AM EST

Proposals for a federal government run health care program for the uninsured, the so-called public option, is the third rail of Washington politics. All who come near in support are likely to get singed, although public support seems to be growing.

But what if a way could be found to provide the goal of the public option -- more competition to private insurers that would reduce medical costs -- without need for a massive new federal bureaucracy?

Harvard Business School professor Bob Pozen thinks he has an idea that could work. Current reform proposals envision state health care agencies acting as group purchasing agents for those who are currently uninsured. What if we took that a step further and said states will also offer, as one choice, a state run health care plan. "This could be, for example, a health care plan for local teachers or state government employees," Pozen writes on his blog post, A Public Option That Would Work.

The beauty of this plan, concludes Pozen, is that public health care apparatus already already exists in every state or region of the land -- no great new bureaucracy needed, more local control preserved.

Several of Pozen's blog readers take issue with the idea, such as Greg's view that "This plan only shifts problems around from one level of government to the next, it does not address the problems of control and cost."

What do you think? Are states the answer to providing a public option? The floor is yours.

Related Reading

Public Option: Everything You Need to Know (CBS

(No stethoscope image by Mykl Roventine, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.