WASHINGTON — Progressive senators and activists are launching a campaign Thursday calling for every American to have the choice of a public health insurance option.
They aim to build on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s support for a public option with what they hope will be the biggest health care push by Democrats since the passage of theAffordable Care Act in 2010.
Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Chuck Schumer of New York, Patty Murrayof Washington and Dick Durbin of Illinois, and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will introduce a resolution stating the Senate supports efforts to build on the ACA by ensuring all Americans have access to a public option in addition to coverage options provided by private insurers.
Schumer, who is expected to take over as Senate Democratic leader in 2017, said in a statement, “We need more competition in the insurance markets, not less, and a public option would help reduce costs and provide consumers with more affordable options.”
A coalition of activists led by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), including Presente.org, UltraViolet, Working Families Party, MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Daily Kos, and the AFL-CIO, hopes to mobilize millions of people to call their senators and support the resolution in a petition at WeWantAPublicOption.com.
The campaign follows Aetna’s announcement in August that it would pull out of the federal online health exchange, HealthCare.gov, in 11 states next year. The announcement came a month after the Justice Department blocked Aetna’s plans to merge with Humana. One analysis found one-third of the country will have no competition among exchange plans next year.
Clinton has proposed giving Americans in every state the choice of a public-option insurance plan and allowing people below Medicare age to opt into the program by offering it to those 55 and older.
“Aetna’s failed extortion attempt and decision to pull out of 11 states has created new urgency for making a public option available to every American,” said Stephanie Taylor, PCCC co-founder. “With Hillary Clinton campaigning on big ideas like a public option, debt-free college, and expanding Social Security benefits, Democrats will earn a mandate in 2016 to govern boldly and progressively in 2017.”