A health care system that contains costs and drives value must include a good public plan if the broad goals of reform—universal insurance and improved value—are to be achieved. Private insurance and public insurance have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and thus should be encouraged to compete side by side to attract enrollees on a level playing field that rewards plans that deliver better value and health to their enrollees. Public insurance has a better track record at reining in costs, while preserving access; it has pioneered key quality and payment innovations that have often set the standard for private plans; it is essential to set a standard against which private plans must compete to drive value and can be a source of stability for people. Private plans are a source of new benefit options, and continuing pressure for innovation in benefit design and care management strategies.
According to opinion polling, most Americans want public and private insurance competing side by side so that they can choose the best option for themselves and their families. Both should have a chance to prove their strengths and improve their weaknesses in a competitive partnership.