Sen. Michael Bennet is leading the drive for a public health insurance option in the U.S. The Colorado Democrat and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine first introduced their public option bill, Medicare-X, three years ago and reintroduced it on Wednesday.
Under the bill, Medicare-X would be available initially on the exchange in area where there is a shortage of insurers, especially rural communities.
It would use Medicare’s network of health care providers, who would then receive a reimbursement rate greater than the current Medicare rate.
The public option would guarantee the same essential health benefits in the Affordable Care Act, including pediatrics, maternity care and mental health services.
Options on the exchange are often limited, especially in rural communities. Currently, 10% of counties have only one option for insurance on the exchange. Medicare-X would be available in these communities first and expand to every zip code by 2025.
Additionally, premiums for the poorest Americans would go down because tax subsidies would go up, and more middle-class Americans would pay less for insurance because they would get a tax credit.
It also gets rid of the so-called “family glitch” in the original Affordable Care Act. That piece itself might allow between two and six million Americans to get healthcare coverage, which is significant, Kaine said.
There would be no cost sharing for primary care so, no co-pays at the doctor’s office.
In 2017 and in 2019, the bill went nowhere beyond being introduced. The senators are more hopeful about the bill’s chances this session because of increased concern about health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and under President Joe Biden, whose health care plan from his presidential campaign aligns closely with the Medicare-X Choice Act.
Bennet said it is an “incredible delight” to have an administration that is committed to public health insurance, rather than one interested in blocking it.
While the senators are interested in getting the act passed as soon as possible, they acknowledged that hearings on legislation will not be happening in the next few weeks while the Senate is consumed with hearings and votes on Biden’s Cabinet nominees.
“We’ll do everything we can to push it across the finish line in the coming months,” Bennet said.
Click below to contact Senators Bennet and Kaine for more questions: