Dems introduce public option for ObamaCare

Dems introduce public option for ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem MORE (D-Colo.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KainePoll: Kaine leads GOP challenger by 19 points in Va. Senate race GOP offers to ban cameras from testimony of Kavanaugh accuser Corey Stewart fires aide who helped bring far-right ideas to campaign: report 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV 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.