Health Care

Bloomberg offers public option, subsidies in new health plan

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Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on Thursday introduced a health care plan that would create a “public option” operated by the federal government, as well as massive new subsidies to help people afford health plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

The billionaire former New York City mayor, who last month became a late entry into the 2020 race, unveiled a health plan that is much closer to the ideas of moderates like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg than those of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The Bloomberg plan would offer a “Medicare-like public option,” allowing all Americans to enroll in an insurance plan administered by the federal government but paid for by consumer premiums. The plan stops short of moving the entire country into “Medicare for All.”

Moderates like Biden and Buttigieg have warned that Medicare for All would force Americans to give up their existing health insurance, and have questioned how the plan would be funded. 

Bloomberg’s plan would also expand federal subsidies on the ObamaCare exchanges, and like Biden, cap premiums at 8.5 percent of a household’s income. The plan would allow people with employer coverage to access these subsidies if they buy policies on the individual market, fixing what’s known as the “family glitch.”

Bloomberg said the public option would give priority to enrolling the uninsured, including low-income people who are in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare.

Bloomberg has been critical of the Medicare for All health plans favored by his progressive rivals.  

During a call with reporters to unveil the plan, Bloomberg’s health care advisers said he did not envision his public option as the first step toward enacting Medicare for All.

We’re not trying to rock the boat and get people off their insurance if they like it. We want to keep private insurance,” one of his advisers said. 

The adviser said Bloomberg did not back Medicare for All because he wants to propose “something that can get done.”

“If we just look at the makeup of the Congress and what is likely to be the makeup of the Congress in 2021, that is just not going to pass,” the adviser said. “It’s not that he doesn’t support the values of Medicare for All, it’s that he wants something that is achievable and can get done.”

A public option was nearly added to ObamaCare before it passed Congress in 2009, but it was removed after it failed to gain enough support amid strong opposition from the health industry.  

Bloomberg’s advisers said they have not conducted a comprehensive pricing analysis on the plan, but based on similar proposals, they said it would cost about $1.5 trillion over 10 years, with $500 billion in cost savings coming from banning surprise medical bills, capping out-of-network charges and saving money on drug prices. 

Congress came close to passing a measure banning surprise medical bills, but left it out of a year-end spending bill after some lawmakers had second thoughts about the solution, which would have cut doctors’ pay.

Bloomberg’s plan was officially unveiled during a speech in Memphis, the same day the leading Democratic candidates were in Los Angeles for a debate. 

The proposal’s rollout also comes amid a renewed threat to the future of ObamaCare. A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled the law’s individual mandate was unconstitutional and sent the case back to a district court judge who previously declared the entire law unconstitutional.

Bloomberg’s plan pledged to undo much of what he called President Trump’s “sabotage” of the health care law, but like the other candidates, did not address what would happen if a court kills the law before he takes office. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Medicare for all Michael Bloomberg ObamaCare Pete Buttigieg public option

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