Washington to offer first ‘public option’ insurance in US

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington is set to become the first state to enter the private health insurance market with a universally available public option.

A set of tiered public plans will cover standard services, and are anticipated to be up to 10% cheaper than comparable private insurance, thanks in part to savings from a cap on rates paid to providers. Unlike existing government-managed plans, the Washington plans are set to be available to all residents regardless of income by 2021.

The Legislature approved the measure creating the plans last month, and Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to sign it into law Monday.

The move also thrusts the state into the national debate over the role of government in health care, with a hybrid model that puts it to the left of market-only approaches, but stops short of a completely public system.