Freeman bill would provide additional public health insurance option

HARRISBURG, March 30 – Permitting the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to sell health insurance would give Pennsylvanians another more affordable insurance option, according to state Rep. Robert Freeman.

The State Workers' Insurance Fund within the Department of Labor and Industry was established to provide a workers' compensation program for Pennsylvania businesses that could not access workers’ compensation insurance in the private sector. It is currently permitted to sell workers' compensation insurance only. Freeman's bill would expand SWIF offerings to include health insurance, which individuals or businesses could purchase for their employees.

"By allowing SWIF to offer health insurance as a public option, it would make a quality insurance product available to Pennsylvanians at a lower cost than current private insurance rates because of its lower administrative overhead. A public option would also create more competition within the health insurance market to help drive rates down,” said Freeman, D-Northampton. “In addition, by making this available in the market, it would serve as a yardstick by which to measure the fairness of rates charged by private health insurance companies.

"Health insurance rates continue to rise. I believe my proposal would effectively bring health care policies back to an affordable range for the average Pennsylvanian. It also would offer a less costly alternative to the current private health plans available today."

Freeman said there would be no tax dollars used to subsidize the public option because the offering would be paid for with premiums to health care subscribers and a possible loan from the SWIF Fund if needed, which would be paid back.

House Bill 658 was referred to the House Insurance Committee.