Dem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance

Dem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators on Wednesday introduced an expanded public option for health insurance as the party debates the next steps to build on ObamaCare.

The new proposal, called the Choose Medicare Act, was introduced by Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Governors criticize Trump move on pre-existing conditions Bipartisan group of senators asks FDA to examine drug shortages Trump faces Father’s Day pleas to end separations of migrant families MORE (D-Conn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Lawmakers banned from talking to detained migrant kids Fourth Senate Dem calls for Nielsen to resign over family separation policy MORE (D-Ore.), both seen as potential presidential contenders, though Murphy has said he is not running in 2020.

The measure has no real chance of becoming law anytime soon, but is part of a growing debate among Democrats about what the best next steps beyond ObamaCare are, which could come to fruition when Democrats next win back the White House.

The bill takes a less sweeping approach than the "Medicare for all" plan championed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Trump's America fights back The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix MORE (I-Vt.). It preserves private insurance while allowing people in ObamaCare plans and employers to choose the new Medicare-based insurance plan if they want.

Merkley is also a supporter of Sanders’s bill, while Murphy is not. Murphy said he thinks it is good that Democrats are throwing out different ideas to be considered.

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“There are some Democrats that have proposed legislation mandating that all Americans move to a Medicare plan under the theory that Medicare is the best option available for Americans,” Murphy said.

“Our bill essentially puts this theory to the test and lets consumers and businesses decide whether they want to migrate to a Medicare plan or whether they want to stay on private insurance,” he added.

Merkley noted that he and Murphy have differing views on Medicare for all, but said this bill is a “a common vision that both perspectives can buy into” in the interim.

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Fourth Senate Dem calls for Nielsen to resign over family separation policy MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDem presidential hopefuls seize on Trump border policy To strengthen our democracy, we need to remove obstacles that keep students from voting Members of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit MORE (D-N.J.), both seen as leading potential presidential contenders, are also co-sponsoring the Murphy-Merkley bill, in addition to backing Sanders’s bill.

Other cosponsors include Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinMembers of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit Ellison introduces bill to curb stock buybacks Dem Senate super PAC reserves million in fall TV ads MORE (D-Wis.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator: 'Stop pretending' law banning separation of migrant families is hard to pass Hillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Dems question FCC's claim of cyberattack during net neutrality comment period MORE (D-Hawaii), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenAmerica will not forget about Pastor Andrew Brunson Shaheen sidelined after skin surgery Members of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit MORE (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichCNN congressional correspondent talks about her early love of trolls and family Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE (D-N.M.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets MORE (D-N.M.).

The bill, in addition to providing a public option, also boosts the generosity of ObamaCare’s subsidies to help make insurance more affordable, and makes people at higher income levels eligible for the assistance.