Senators Reintroduce Public Health Insurance Option
Commentary: U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) have reintroduced the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public health insurance option to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.
“Health care is a human right. For communities to thrive, Americans need quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Luján. “A state public option puts us one step closer to universal coverage for all Americans, and I’m honored to re-introduce this legislation alongside Senator Schatz to bolster our health care system.”
“Our bill will open up each state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wants it, giving people a high-quality, low-cost public health insurance option,” said Senator Schatz. “Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that every single American has comprehensive health care coverage.”
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 18 states are exploring implementing a public option within their legislatures. 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.
Even with the progress of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than 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 limited insurance carriers or who worry they may soon have no options for affordable coverage.
In the Senate, the Schatz-Luján legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
In the House, companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), Evans (D-Penn.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).