Local Health Care Providers Join Merkley in Pushing for Medicare Option for All

MEDFORD, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today was joined by local health care providers in pushing for the Choose Medicare Act, legislation authored by Merkley. Local health care leaders included Rogue Valley Community Health CEO William North, Siskiyou Community Health CEO Richard Booth, La Clinica CEO Brenda Johnson, and Marya Kain, Rogue Valley Community Health board member and patient advocate. The bill would give every individual who is not already eligible for Medicaid or Medicare the opportunity to enroll in Medicare, and would give every employer the opportunity to purchase Medicare for their employees.

“Every American deserves access to a popular, affordable, high-quality health care option,” Merkley said. “Fortunately, we already have exactly such an option – it’s called Medicare. The Choose Medicare Act creates a Medicare option for all, putting consumers and businesses in the driver’s seat on the pathway to universal health care. As Oregonians face the prospect of President Trump’s sabotage-driven premium increases, I am proud to stand alongside these local leaders to call for a better option.”

“Rogue Community Health’s vision is that our community embraces healthcare as a right and privilege,” said Rogue Community Health CEO William North. “We have worked for over 45 years to ensure that patients have access to high quality, services regardless of income or insurance coverage. We recognize the value of affordable insurance coverage to support the healthcare needs of all people in our community. Medicare Part E is an important step in making quality health coverage more accessible to more people in the Rogue Valley, and we thank Sen. Merkley for pushing to make it a reality.”

“Amidst the currently daunting climate of health insurance and healthcare, it is imperative that we evaluate every possible option that can serve as a stepping stone for making healthcare more affordable and, subsequently, more accessible for every member of our communities,” said Siskiyou Community Health CEO Richard Booth. “Not only will the Medicare Act provide consumers with more options to meet their unique individual and family needs, but may also enhance competition within the insurance industry to reduce rates and refocus on the needs of the consumer. As a large group employer and healthcare provider, the Medicare Act is at the very heart of our organizational mission; accordingly, Siskiyou Community Health Center fully supports this piece of legislation.”

“Our community deserves the absolute best, most affordable care possible and we simply can’t achieve that dream without addressing fundamental issues about health insurance coverage,” said La Clinica CEO Brenda Johnson. “This legislation may open a window for people who otherwise struggle each day affording the care they need.”

Medicare is consistently rated the most popular and efficient health insurance system in the United States; already, nearly 24 percent of Jackson County residents and 28 percent of Josephine County residents are enrolled. 

The new plan, Medicare Part E, would be self-sustaining and fully paid for by premiums. Medicare Part E would be offered on all state and federal exchanges, and people could use the existing Affordable Care Act subsidies to help pay for it.  Additionally, employers could choose to select Medicare Part E rather than private insurance to provide affordable and reliable health care for their employees. The full bill text is available here and a summary of the bill is available here.

The State of Oregon recently announced insurance companies’ proposed premium rates for plan year 2019. Although the state has worked to shield residents from efforts to sabotage insurance exchanges — for instance blocking the president’s proposal to allow junk plans to be sold as regular insurance — the proposed rate increases demonstrate that states can only go so far when the resources of the federal government are used to undermine an individual health care market and weaken strong consumer protections.

Opening Medicare to employers and insurance exchanges would provide a public alternative that would create competition and lower rates for quality coverage. The Choose Medicare Act:

Increases Access, Competition, and Choice

·         Opens Medicare to employers of all sizes and allows them to purchase high quality, affordable health care for their employees without requiring replacement of employment-based health insurance.

·         Addresses the discrepancy between consumer protections in the individual and group markets by extending the Affordable Care Act’s rating requirements to all markets, to end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions once and for all.


Provides Comprehensive Coverage

·         Covers essential health benefits and all items and services covered by Medicare.

·         Provides high-quality, Medicare benefits (gold-level coverage).

·         Ensures coverage for all reproductive services.


Improves affordability

·         Establishes an out-out-pocket maximum in traditional Medicare.

·         Increases the generosity of premium tax credits and extends eligibility to middle-income earners.  

·         Allows Medicare to negotiate fair prices for prescription drugs.

·         Drives down private insurance premiums with competition from Medicare.