WASHINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€œ What, did you think the fight for health care reform was over?
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the progressive caucus, is making good on her promise to continue pushing for a public health insurance option after the enactment of sweeping reform legislation.
On Thursday afternoon, the Northern California congresswoman will announce the introduction of a bill offering consumers a choice between private plans and a "robust" public plan in the health insurance exchanges set up by the law.
"The robust public option offers lower-cost competition to private insurance companies," Woolsey told Raw Story. "This will make insurance more affordable for those who do not have it and keep insurance affordable for those who do. We are introducing the public option now so is will be available as a ready-made off set or deficit reducer in this or the next Congress."
In an email, she promised it would "rein in the spiraling costs of premiums" and "save billions of dollars and improve health care while doing it."
The bill currently has 121 co-sponsors in the House, Woolsey said, and has won strong praise from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
"I am very pleased that Congresswoman Woolsey and 120 of her colleagues in the House are introducing a bill to create a strong public option operating in every state exchange," Sanders told Raw Story. "I have long been in favor of a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system, but in the post-Affordable Care Act world I think the very least we can do is to offer every person the option of choosing a government-run health insurance plan over a private one."
While the insurance industry fears competition from the government, polls have suggested that a large majority of Americans support a public option, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that such a provision would help reduce the deficit.
"It comes as no surprise to me that the CBO continues to recognize that such a public option will save significant amounts of money for the federal taxpayer," Sanders said.
Progressives are enthusiastic about the provision, for which there is strong support in the House. But it could be a nonstarter in the Senate this year, due to the busy calendar and fast approaching November midterm elections.
Woolsey was a vocal supporter of a public plan during the grueling yearlong debate. Though she voted for the bill even after it was removed, she told Raw Story in February she wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop fighting for the provision.
In an op-ed for The Hill last week, Woolsey called the Affordable Care ActÃ‚Â a "historic first step," but argued that the law enacted in March must be followed by "an even longer stride into history by establishing a robust public option."