Merkley, fellow Dems introduce ‘Choose Medicare Act’

WASHINGTON – Sen. Jeff Merkley and numerous fellow Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday to provide Medicare for all, calling it the “Choose Medicare Act.”

Here’s their news release on the proposal:

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), joined by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Min.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), introduced the Choose Medicare Act to give every individual who is not already eligible for Medicaid or Medicare the opportunity to enroll in Medicare as an individual. The Choose Medicare Act also gives every employer the ability to purchase Medicare for their employees.

“No American should go bankrupt over medical expenses, because every American deserves excellent health care at an affordable price,” said Merkley. “This isn’t a pie in the sky idea. We already have an affordable, popular solution – it’s called Medicare. The Choose Medicare Act creates a Medicare option available to every American, putting consumers and businesses in the driver’s seat on the pathway to universal health care.”

“If privately run health care is better than Medicare, then let the private sector prove it. It’s time to allow every American family and every American business the chance to choose Medicare if it’s the right product for their family members or employees. The Choose Medicare Act does this,” said Murphy. “Why on earth do we force people to wait until they turn 65 to have access to the most popular, most efficient health insurance product in the country? By allowing every American to choose Medicare if they want it, we will increase competition and choice for individuals and businesses. That’s what our constituents tell us they badly want.”

“The Choose Medicare Act will help us achieve universal health care coverage by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and giving Americans more affordable options in the marketplace,” said Feinstein. “It will also drive down costs by stopping unreasonable rate increases, eliminating the subsidy cliff for many middle-class families and lowering prescription drug prices through direct negotiations between the Secretary of Health and Human Services and drug manufacturers.”

“This bill would lower health care costs across the board by giving all Americans the choice to buy into a popular, affordable, and high quality health care option: Medicare,”said Blumenthal. “I’m proud to support this thoughtful proposal that would move us closer to our ultimate goal: ensuring every American has access to high quality, affordable health care.”

“President Trump has spent the last two years sabotaging our health care system, raising health care costs and pushing junk insurance plans that do not have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. He has even gone to court to win a lawsuit that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and health care for over 20 million Americans. The choice for the American people couldn’t be more clear – we want to make things better and he is doing everything he can to make things worse,” said Baldwin. “The Choose Medicare Act offers a new option for every American to buy more affordable, quality health care coverage through Medicare. In addition, it would open Medicare to employers of all sizes and allow them to purchase high quality, affordable health care for their employees, instead of, or in addition to, private insurance. Our legislation would be a critical step forward to help increase competition and reduce health insurance costs.”

“This boils down to whether you believe health care is a privilege for the wealthy and healthy few, or a right for everyone. I believe it’s a right for all Americans and that we must do more to increase competition and lower health care costs for people nationwide,”Durbin said. “By giving more Americans the choice to participate in Medicare, while simultaneously safeguarding the program for today’s seniors, this bill represents an important next step toward our shared goal of affordable, quality health care for all.”

“When it comes to health care, people want it to be affordable, cover their needs, and they want options,” said Reed. “Our bill gives Americans another choice to keep their costs down and get the coverage they need. Let’s hope the President and Republican leadership drop their efforts to repeal Obamacare and instead focus on bills like this.”

“People across the country should be able to get the care they need at a price they can afford,” said Smith. “This legislation is a no-brainer. By allowing all Americans—no matter what age—to buy into a Medicare plan, we’re making it easier for people to get affordable coverage, increase competition, and keep costs down.”

“Granite Staters want to see Congress improving the accessibility and affordability of quality health care, and this legislation would be a critical step forward,” said Shaheen.“Medicare beneficiaries overwhelmingly approve of their coverage, and allowing more people the option to enroll in a Medicare plan would drive down costs, help address the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs and give millions of Americans a more affordable and comprehensive option for their health coverage.”

“All Americans deserve high-quality health coverage, and this legislation is an important step toward making healthcare more accessible and affordable for all Illinoisans,”Duckworth said. “It’s clear that the American people don’t want us to go backward, so let’s to build on the progress made by the Affordable Care Act in increasing access and affordability of healthcare.”

“Health care in our country is too expensive, and as I travel throughout my state, the number one issue on people’s minds is access to affordable health care. One way we can lower costs is to allow every American to buy into a Medicare. The Choose Medicare Act would make affordable, public health care available to any American,” said Gillibrand. “Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and this bill would force private companies to compete with Medicare and lower health care costs. I will always fight to make sure all Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health care, and I urge my colleagues to pass this bill.”

“When I meet with communities across New Mexico, one of the top concerns I hear about is the rising cost of health care,” said Heinrich. “Expanding the choice of Medicare to everyone not only extends coverage options, but invigorates market competitiveness – lowering health care costs. No one in this country should have to question meeting their health care needs. The Choose Medicare Act eliminates the guessing game and reassures New Mexicans, and all Americans, that affordable health care can be within their reach.”

Medicare is consistently rated the most popular and efficient health insurance system in the United States. 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. In addition, employers would have the opportunity to provide Medicare Part E to their employees instead of or in addition to private insurance. The full bill text is availablehere and a summary of the bill is available here.

“At the core of the Choose Medicare Act is the notion that consumers and employers deserve better choices in health care coverage options,” said Shawn Gremminger, Senior Director of Federal Relations for Families USA. “In a health care system in which the cost of coverage, including premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing, continue to rise, Senators Merkley and Murphy are thinking outside the box. The Choose Medicare Act builds on the most popular health care coverage program in the country – Medicare – both by opening the program to more people, and in making needed improvements to the existing program. By increasing competition, we expect premiums in private health insurance to be reduced, providing a real benefit to consumers who do not choose to enroll in Medicare.”

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.