Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., visited the North by Northeast Community Health Center Friday to talk with health care advocates about his efforts in the Senate to call for a public option, similar to Medicare, in the health insurance market.
On Thursday, Merkley introduced a Senate resolution with Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and 27 of their colleagues, to add a public option to the health insurance market.
“Here in Oregon, the Affordable Care Act has already expanded health coverage to thousands of Oregonians who were previously uninsured and given countless Americans greater peace of mind,” said Merkley. “Instead of talking about rolling back these advances we should be building on this success by driving competition and holding insurance companies accountable with a public, Medicare-like option available to every American.”
Specifically, the resolution states support for efforts “to build on the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that, in addition to the coverage options provided by private insurers, every American has access to a public health insurance option which, when established, will strengthen competition, improve affordability for families by reducing premiums and increasing choices, and save American taxpayers billions of dollars.”
“I’ve been a patient at the North by Northeast Community Health Clinic for a number of years and have loved the service and support they have given me. Unfortunately, I just found out that I make too much money and won’t be able to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan anymore and I am worried about the cost of health care on the exchange and wish that there was a public option similar to Medicare for all Oregonians,” said Abigail Lawrence of Portland.
“Senator Merkley’s proposal would help Oregonians like me who want more choices to help keep the cost of health care from being unaffordable for working Oregonians.”
In addition to Merkley, Schumer, Murray, Durbin and Sanders, the resolution is cosponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
The full text of the resolution follows below.
Supporting efforts to increase competition and accountability in the health insurance marketplace, and extend accessible, quality, affordable health care coverage to every American through the choice of a public insurance plan.
In the Senate of the United States, Mr. MERKLEY (for himself, Mr. SCHUMER, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. DURBIN, Mr. SANDERS, Mrs. STABENOW, Mrs. BOXER, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. FRANKEN, Mr. WHITEHOUSE, Mr. UDALL, Mr. WYDEN, Mr. BROWN, Mrs. GILLIBRAND, Mr. MURPHY, Mr. MENENDEZ, Mr. REED, Mr. CARDIN, Mr. BLUMENTHAL, Mr. CASEY, Mr. MARKEY, Mrs. SHAHEEN, Mr. BENNET, Mrs. BALDWIN, Mrs. WARREN, Mr. PETERS, Mr. SCHATZ, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. Heinrich, Mrs. Hirono, Mrs. Mikulski, Mr. Reid, and Mrs. Klobuchar) submitted the following resolution, which was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Purpose: Supporting efforts to increase competition and accountability in the health insurance marketplace, and advance the goal of accessible, quality, affordable health care for everyone in America as a basic human right by offering the choice of a public insurance plan.
Whereas under the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage, including 11 million individuals that have coverage on the public exchanges created by the law;
Whereas the uninsured rate is at its lowest point in history; however, there is still more work to be done to provide access to coverage for Americans that remain uninsured and reduce deductibles and out of pocket costs for the 31 million Americans currently underinsured;
Whereas before the Affordable Care Act millions of individuals with pre-existing conditions were denied health coverage by insurance companies that controlled who received care in the United States;
Whereas profound disparities persist in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity, and geography, and nearly four million adults, disproportionately people of color, lack coverage as a result of the failure of 19 states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act;
Whereas public insurance options for workers’ compensation insurance have resulted in lower rates for small businesses and more competition in several states;
Whereas giving all Americans the choice of a public, nonprofit health insurance option would lead to increased competition, reduced premiums, cut wasteful spending on administration, marketing, and executive pay, and ensure consumers have the affordable choices they deserve;
Whereas establishing a state-based public health insurance plan is possible today through the use of State Innovation Waivers as created by the Affordable Care Act which allow states to promote unique, creative and innovative approaches to implementing meaningful health care reform including a public option;
Whereas public programs like Medicare often deliver care more cost-effectively by limiting administrative overhead and securing better prices from providers;
Whereas the Congressional Budget Office has found that a public health insurance option would save taxpayers billions of dollars;
Resolved, that the Senate supports efforts— to build on the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that, in addition to the coverage options provided by private insurers, every American has access to a public health insurance option which, when established, will strengthen competition, improve affordability for families by reducing premiums and increasing choices, and save American taxpayers billions of dollars.