Legislation Reintroduced to Create Public Healthcare Option

February 14, 2019, 7:54 AM HST (Updated February 14, 2019, 7:59 AM)
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Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) reintroduced the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public healthcare option to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.

“Our bill will unlock each state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wants it, giving people a high-quality, low-cost public health insurance option,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that every single American has comprehensive healthcare coverage.”

“Democrats are hard at work developing solutions to strengthen the ACA, expand health coverage, and drive down healthcare costs for the American people,” said Rep. Luján. “A state public option would make real strides in our fight for universal coverage. That’s why 14 states are already considering using a Medicaid Buy-In to close their coverage gaps and save families money. We’ve seen tremendous progress around this idea in New Mexico, and I look forward to continue to working with Sen. Schatz to replicate that success on the national level.”

The State Public Option Act will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan. At least 14 states are exploring implementing a Medicaid public option within their legislatures. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found broad, bipartisan support for a Medicaid public option. Medicaid is a popular and cost-effective program with a large provider network. The program has the same positive ratings as private insurance, but provides health coverage at a much lower cost. Based on partnerships between state and federal governments, Medicaid also gives states the flexibility to adapt services and models of care based on their individual needs.

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Even with the progress of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly 30 million people remain uninsured. This legislation will help workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage but may make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. The bill will also help consumers who live in counties with only one insurance carrier or who worry they may soon have no options for affordable coverage.

“I commend Sen. Schatz, Rep. Luján, and their co-sponsors for their leadership in putting forward the State Public Option Act,” said Andy Slavitt, United States of Care Board chair and former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “The opportunity to buy into Medicaid is a pragmatic approach to help Americans who still don’t have access to comprehensive healthcare coverage and a step towards ensuring our country fulfills its commitment to make sure all Americans have access to care. I believe that this is an approach that Americans across the political spectrum can support, and look forward to a robust public conversation about the details of the proposal.”

In the Senate, Schatz’s legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie K. Hirono (D- Hawai‘i), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

In the House, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Yevette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), T.J. Cox (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Katie Hill (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Ann M. Kuster (D-N.H.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Susan Wild (D-Pa).

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