Merkley, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Let Every American Choose Medicare

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today to lead nine of their colleagues in introducing the Choose Medicare Act, legislation that would give every individual who is not already eligible for Medicaid or Medicare the opportunity to enroll in Medicare as an individual and give every employer the ability to purchase Medicare for their employees.

“In the richest country in the world, no person should have to worry about whether they’ll be able to afford care if they become sick or get into an accident. That means every American needs high-quality, affordable health care,” said Merkley. “Luckily, we already have an effective, popular solution, and it’s called Medicare. It’s time we put consumers and businesses in the driver’s seat on the road to universal health care by letting every American have the option to secure coverage through this program.”

The new plan created by the legislation, Medicare Part E, would help put consumers in the driver’s seat on the road toward universal coverage, and could act as a key stepping stone to get to Medicare for All. Merkley has been a consistent advocate for strengthening, and expanding access to, Medicare—the program that is consistently rated the most popular and efficient health insurance system in the United States, including cosponsoring and advocating for Medicare for All.

Medicare Part E would be self-sustaining, fully paid for by premiums, and offered on all state and federal exchanges, giving people the ability to 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 to their employees.

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

  • Includes the ACA’s 10 essential health benefits and all items and services covered by Medicare.
  • Provides high-quality, gold-level coverage and cost-sharing.
  • Ensures coverage for all reproductive services, including abortion.

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.  
  • Directs Medicare to negotiate fair prices for prescription drugs.
  • Drives down private insurance premiums through competition from Medicare by allowing the HHS Secretary to block excessive insurance rates.
  • Extends traditional Medicare protections on balance billing or surprise medical bills to Part E plans.

Merkley, Murphy, and Feinstein were joined in the introduction by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Jack Reed (D-RI).

A summary of the bill is available here.