Washington state ferry

A Washington state ferry traverses Puget Sound with The Brothers peaks of the Cascade Mountains in the background on Dec. 10, 2017.

As Colorado lawmakers move closer to a public option insurance program, the Denver-based Common Sense Institute keeps finding apt comparison in Washington state.

Colorado has seen larger reductions on a percentage basis in the Affordable Care Act's average benchmark premiums than the Evergreen State.

Washington became the first state to establish a public option two year ago, and press accounts so far have said it's come up short of expectations. Politico cautioned that "its difficult birth carries a warning for national reformers."


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So far, the Washington plan hasn't lowered premiums to meet predictions with insurance rates driven by Medicare price caps.

Without a public option, Colorado still has outperformed Washington, according to the new research.

Since 2018, Colorado's benchmark premiums have fallen by 25.3%, compared to 15.5% increase in Washington state. Nationally, ACA average benchmark premiums have fallen by 6%, according to the Common Sense Institute.

Read the full analysis by clicking here.

Colorado has benefited from a number of steps by Gov. Jared Polis to reduce the cost of premiums, including a reinsurance pool for high-risk, high-cost people that lowered the overall rate, while the state pays insurers a fee.

The Common Sense Institute found that total enrollment in the Washington State Public Option was 1,872 as of January 2021.

"The number of 'new' members who signed up for the public option — i.e. those who did not previously have coverage through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange — was 1,114," according to the report. "Before the pandemic, Washington State had 481,700 uninsured residents. This means, at best, the public option reduced the number of uninsured Washington residents by 0.23%."

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