Dems introduce public option for ObamaCare

Dems introduce public option for ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House panel approves impeachment powers Burden in tonight's debate is on Democratic realists 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the September Democratic debate MORE (D-Colo.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Air Force nominee: Setting up Space Force would be 'key imperative' MORE (D-Va.) on Tuesday introduced a bill to add a government-run “public option” plan to ObamaCare, modeled on Medicare.

The plan, part of a long-running debate in the Democratic Party about how far to go in expanding government-run health insurance, would move ObamaCare to the left but does not go as far as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Booker defends middle-ground health care approach: 'We're going to fight to get there' Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE's (I-Vt.) "Medicare for all" plan.

Instead of scrapping ObamaCare and extending Medicare to everyone, as Sanders’s plan does, the Bennet and Kaine bill would provide an option modeled on Medicare as a choice alongside private plans offered through the existing ObamaCare system. 

“We don’t blow up the existing system,” Kaine told reporters. “We maintain the system.”

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But the senators said the public option is needed to increase competition on the ObamaCare marketplaces, acknowledging that right now there is a problem on the law’s exchanges where many rural counties only have one insurance option, while some are at risk of having none at all.

Bennet said that his constituents often complain to him that their premiums have gone up because there is a lack of competition in ObamaCare.

“I think that’s a completely legitimate critique of a bill that I supported,” Bennet said. He called the new bill “a thoughtful approach to a problem that exists all over my state.”

Kaine added that President Trump’s “sabotage” of the health law, like cutting off key payments to insurers, has made the problems worse.

The measure currently has no real chance of passing, given Republican control of Congress, but it is a marker in the debate within the Democratic Party over how far to go in building on ObamaCare.

The lawmakers argue that a public option based on Medicare would be able to offer lower premiums because it would have lower administrative costs and not have to pay large executive salaries.

The measure would be sure to provoke opposition from industry groups like insurers, doctors and hospitals, given that Medicare pays health care providers at lower rates than private insurance.

A public option was floated during the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but was removed before final passage.