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 MurphyLawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Democratic senator on proposal to read Bolton manuscript in classified setting: 'Total bulls---t' Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap MORE (D-Conn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip 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 SandersNew campaign ad goes after Sanders by mentioning heart attack Biden on whether Sanders can unify party as nominee: 'It depends' Steyer rebukes Biden for arguing with supporter he thought was Sanders voter 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 HarrisSanders allies in new uproar over DNC convention appointments Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Harris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip 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 BaldwinSenators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses Senate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing MORE (D-Wis.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzBiden calls out Iowa GOP senator's impeachment comments: 'She spilled the beans' Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request MORE (D-Hawaii), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Biden: 'I sure would like Michelle to be the vice president' Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing MORE (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial Health care, spending bills fuel busy year for K Street Schumer introduces bill requiring GDP measure inequality MORE (D-N.M.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallIt is time for companies and governments to holistically tackle single-use plastics Citizens United decision weathers 10 years of controversy Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall 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.