Nov. 9: This post has been corrected.
Pundits and politicians from both sides of the fence have been hollering themselves blue about a potential public health care option. Instead of relying on private insurers, the government would insure people itself. The idea is that if a government-run option were offered to compete with private insurers, it could help keep pricing in check and ensure quality.
Two of the three health care reform bills in Congress have a public option. What might a public option look like in practice? One way to find out is to look at what's already out there. About a third of Americans already get health care from a publicly administered program. From celebrated programs like the VA's or the military's, to the troubled ones like the Indian Health Services, here's a snapshot of how they actually work.
Oct. 21: This post has been corrected.
A version of this story was co-produced with the CBS News investigative unit for CBS Evening News With Katie Couric and aired on that program on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009.
Six years ago, a group of lawmakers and aides crafted Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for seniors that has produced billions of dollars of profits for pharmaceutical companies.
Today, at least 25 of those key players are back, but this time they’re lobbyists, trying to persuade their former colleagues to protect the lucrative system during the health care reform negotiations.
The role of big players like Billy Tauzin — the former Republican representative from Louisiana who is now president of PhRMA, the drug industry’s lobbying group — has been long understood. But a ProPublica analysis shows that the drug industry’s position is also being promoted by other foot soldiers from the Part D legislative process, from committee aides to top Bush administration officials.
The hubbub has subsided after President Obama's health care speech, but reform's treacherous route through Congress remains the same.
Obama called for reining in the insurance industry, creating a public option to help make insurance available to everyone, and requiring everyone to have coverage. But he must still reconcile his views with proposals in the House and the Senate, which differ from one another and from what the president outlined.
For people out there who don't like to read 1,000-page bills, we have posted to our document viewer the health care reform bills being considered by Congress. So far, there is one bill in the Senate, with one more to come, and one in the House. With the documents in the viewer you can search for specific terms, or link directly to pages in the bill -- and we'll be keeping the bills up-to-date as they change. (Search the Senate bill and the House bill.)
Much of the coverage of the health care reform process has left consumers -- and many of us here at ProPublica -- struggling to understand just how the various proposals in play would affect them.
To begin to tackle that, we partnered with American Public Media's Public Insight Network team, asking readers and listeners to complete a health care questionnaire. Hundreds of you responded, leaving us with a much clearer picture of what people across the country are actually coping with, and what people want to know. (Take a look at the Public Insight Network's interactive map of survey responses.)
Over the next few weeks, we will be profiling survey respondents, looking at how the proposed reforms will affect their situations.
Safeguard the public interest.
Support ProPublica’s award-winning investigative journalism.
- Kaiser Family Foundation: Subsidy Calculator
This interactive calculator lets users input variables, like income and family size, and then estimates how much they would have to pay for health insurance – and how much government help they would receive – under various health care reform proposals.
- Kaiser Family Foundation: The Process of Health Reform Legislation
This slideshow tutorial walks you through the steps of the legislative process for health care reform.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project total U.S. health care spending to 2018.
- Wall Street Journal: Health Care Reform Proposals
A simplified side-by-side comparison of the various proposals in play
- New York Times: Health Care Reform: Then and Now
A video odyssey through past attempts at health care reform
Latest Episode: Podcast: Six years ago, the two-state agency pledged to reduce emissions from trucks and accepted $35 million in federal dollars to do it. Today, it has little to show for the money it spent. Writer Max Rivlin-Nadler takes ProPublica’s Joaquin Sapien inside his Village Voice investigation.