As the global COVID-19 pandemic rages, the U.S. health care system remains under intense pressure. As Americans seek health care, they find the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding financial and access challenges.

Lower-income and minority communities are disproportionately impacted by the concomitant economic and public health crises, exposing disparities in access to health care services.

And yet, the crisis has shown us the resilience of the American health care system, as providers crisscross the country to meet the needs of patients in communities overwhelmed by outbreaks, and private insurance plans waive out-of-pocket costs to ensure continued access to medical services.

Meanwhile, Medicaid, COBRA and the individual insurance marketplaces have functioned as a critical backstop for furloughed and laid-off Americans, who lost their employer-sponsored coverage.

Policymakers continue to examine the ways in which the U.S. health care system could be improved to meet the health care needs of all Americans and to prevent future catastrophe during the next public health emergency.

One policy proposal under consideration is a national public option, which would allow individuals to purchase a public, government-sponsored, insurance plan on the individual marketplace.

Supporters argue that such a system could have mitigated some of the challenges the country is experiencing today. Given the extreme economic and health consequences of the current crisis, FTI Consulting sought to understand how the system would have fared had a public option been in place when the crisis hit.


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