Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee, issued this statement on a proposal announced today to provide a public option for health insurance in Washington state:

“I applaud this plan and look forward to shepherding it through the Senate and working toward its passage by the full Legislature.

“Health care is the number one concern in households across our country, and for good reason. At a time when the White House and Senate continue to work to roll back Americans’ health care coverage, it’s more important than ever that we act at the state level to ensure access to affordable, comprehensive coverage for Washingtonians.

“I have said for some time that it is critical that the state offer a health insurance plan for individuals through our state health benefit exchange. A public option can lower premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs for households that do not have health plans through employers, and ensure that all Washingtonians in the individual market have access to an affordable healthcare plan, even if private insurers raise rates or leave the market.

“This policy will give Washingtonians more options from which to choose. It will increase competition among plan providers, leading to lower costs for consumers. It will also standardize the cost sharing and range of benefits offered in the both public and private plans available through the exchange, making it easier for consumers to find a plan that meets their needs.”