Freeman bill would make state-offered health insurance an affordable option

HARRISBURG, Dec. 17 – Permitting the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to sell health insurance would make health insurance more affordable, under legislation introduced by 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 only permitted to sell workers' compensation insurance. Freeman's bill would expand its offerings to include health insurance, which could be purchased by individuals or businesses for their employees.

"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," said Freeman, D-Northampton.

"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. 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.”

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 loan from the SWIF Fund, which would be paid back.

House Bill 2168 was referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee for consideration.