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 MurphyMaxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act MORE (D-Conn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories House bill would ban stock trading by members of Congress Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers 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 SandersBernie SandersTop Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points GE employees urge company to use laid-off workers to make ventilators 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 HarrisBiden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll Biden could be picking the next president: VP choice more important than ever With VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men 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 BaldwinDemocratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal Overnight Defense: 'Tens of thousands' of National Guard troops could be activated for coronavirus response | Hospital ships could take week to deploy | Trump says military to help Americans stuck in Peru MORE (D-Wis.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzLawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate MORE (D-Hawaii), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? McConnell sets Friday night deadline for bipartisan deal on stimulus American citizen released from Lebanese prison, returning to US MORE (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Coronavirus takes toll on Capitol Hill GOP chairman cancels Hunter Biden-related subpoena vote MORE (D-N.M.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Democrats press Pompeo to help Americans stranded abroad amid coronavirus Democrats press FEC pick to recuse himself from Trump matters 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.