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Health Aff (Millwood). 2009 Nov-Dec;28(6):w1013-24. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.28.6.w1013. Epub 2009 Sep 15.

How a new 'public plan' could affect hospitals' finances and private insurance premiums.

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  • 1Dobson DaVanzo and Associates LLC in Vienna, Virginia, USA.


Two key health reform bills in the House of Representatives and Senate include the option of a "public plan" as an additional source of health coverage. At least initially, the plan would primarily be structured to cover many of the uninsured and those who now have individual coverage. Because it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that this new public payer would pay less than private payers for the same services, such a plan could negatively affect hospital margins. Hospitals may attempt to recoup losses by shifting costs to private payers. We outline the financial pressures that hospitals and private payers could experience under various assumptions. High uninsured enrollment in a public plan would bolster hospital margins; however, this effect is reversed if the privately insured enter a public plan in large proportions, potentially stressing the hospital industry and increasing private insurance premiums.

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