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 MurphyProgressives scramble to save top priorities from chopping block Democratic senator: Methane fee could be 'in jeopardy' Democrats ready to put a wrap on dragged-out talks MORE (D-Conn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Senate Democrats propose penalties for Federal Reserve officials who don't follow ethics code Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal 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 SandersDemocrats hope to hold Big Oil 'accountable' On The Money — Will the billionaire tax survive Joe Manchin? Democrats cutting paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin opposition 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 HarrisRNC targets McAuliffe, Biden campaign event with mobile billboard Obama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory BookerAfter 35 years, Congress should finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach Black Caucus pushes for priorities in final deal 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 BaldwinProviding affordable housing to recruit our next generation of volunteer firefighters Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Building back better by investing in workers and communities MORE (D-Wis.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzClimate advocates turn sights on Wall Street To sustain humanity COP26 must lead on both climate and biodiversity Democrats struggle to sell Biden plan amid feuding MORE (D-Hawaii), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPaid family leave proposal at risk Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Democrats inch closer to legislative deal Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE (D-N.M.) and Tom UdallTom UdallFlake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay Overnight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador 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.