An amendment to the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill that would permit employees to shop around for health insurance policies is slowly gaining momentum on the Hill.
The idea, pitched by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last week, would open the proposed "insurance exchange" -- where consumers can compare and
purchase insurance plans -- to Americans who already receive coverage from their employers. It would also require businesses to offer their employees multiple plan options.
"Only very small companies and those individuals who can’t get insurance outside of the exchange — 25 million people — would be allowed to shop there [under the current bill]," Wyden wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times last week. "This would leave more than 200 million Americans with no more options, private or public, than they have today."
What has made Wyden's proposal especially appealing today, however, is the Congressional Budget Office's recent cost estimate. By their math, his amendment would reduce the bill's impact on the deficit by about $1 billion
over the next 10 years.
But, the CBO analysis concluded: "There would not be substantial effects on the total number of people with insurance coverage or the sources of that coverage, relative to the Chairman’s mark."
At the very least, the idea seems to have piqued the curiosity of Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont), who recognized Wyden's efforts during markup on Tuesday.
"I especially appreciate your comments about choice and competition if you don't want to be stuck with what your employer gives you. We're going to get into some ideas for how to do that," he said.