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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 MurphySenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial Lawmakers push back on late Trump terror designation for Yemen's Houthis MORE (D-Conn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Flags, signs and other items left behind in Capitol riot to be preserved as historical artifacts 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 SandersBiden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate 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 HarrisBiden-Harris team unveils inauguration playlist Trump approval rating relatively unchanged in wake of Capitol rioting: NBC News poll Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory BookerOfficials brace for second Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Booker: It would be 'constitutionally dangerous' not to conduct full Trump impeachment trial 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 BaldwinSeven Senate races to watch in 2022 Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformation Senate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  MORE (D-Wis.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzFor platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Senate Democrats rebuke GOP colleagues who say they'll oppose Electoral College results 11 Senate Republicans say they will oppose Electoral College results Wednesday MORE (D-Hawaii), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBipartisan group of senators: The election is over Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 How Congress dismissed women's empowerment MORE (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOvernight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (D-N.M.) and Tom UdallTom UdallSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes We can achieve our democratic ideals now by passing the For the People Act Haaland nomination generates excitement in Native American communities 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.