Attorney General Martha Coakley, the frontrunner in the race for US Senate from Massachusetts, announced today that she supported a "strong public insurance option" as part of health care reforms that are currently being considered in Washington.
"Such a public plan would provide individuals with greater choice and likely offer more affordable coverage," she said in a 10-page plan released by her campaign that outlined her positions on health care. "A public option would also create competition in the insurance market, further driving costs down."
The question of whether to create a government-run insurance plan to help people who can't afford coverage has sparked controversy as Congress has worked to forge a health care reform bill. The proposal appeared to fade at one point, but now has reportedly gained new life.
Coakley said in the plan that she believes reforms should be designed to expand coverage to those who currently don't have it, to improve health care quality, and to contain costs.
Coakley said she agreed with proposals in Washington that would mandate that individuals obtain coverage; expand Medicaid coverage for the poorest Americans; and provide new government subsidies for those who aren't eligible for Medicaid but still can't afford insurance. She also called for "employer shared responsibility," but no details of that proposal were provided in the plan.
"The status quo is unaffordable and a moral disgrace," she said.
With the final election slated for mid-January, it is not clear whether the new US senator from Massachusetts will arrive in Washington in time to vote on the health care reform bill. Coakley said that even if Obama signs a health care reform bill, work will still need to be done to "improve a complex system that badly needs repair."
Much of her plan was focused on the problem of controlling costs, which she said was needed in order for health care reform to succeed.
She proposed a variety of measures, including changing incentives so health care providers are focused more on keeping people healthy, rather than treating them when they get sick; increasing transparency of health care quality and costs; and reducing health care bureaucracy.
Coakley is running for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of long-time Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She is battling US Representative Michael Capuano, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, and Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca for the Democratic nomination in the Dec. 8 primary. State Senator Scott Brown, a Wrentham Republican, is the leading candidate on the GOP side. The final election is Jan. 19.