WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), joined by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), introduced on Wednesday 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 or every employer to purchase Medicare for their employees.

“Every American deserves the promise of access to a popular, affordable, high-quality health care option,” said Merkley. “Fortunately, we already have exactly such an option – and 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.”

“People in Connecticut love Medicare. It’s popular, it’s patient friendly, and it’s cost effective. Every individual and every business should have the right to buy into Medicare, and our bill allows this to finally happen,” said Murphy. “For those who think that Medicare is the right plan for all Americans, this bill puts that theory to test and allows for consumers and businesses to decide whether they want to remain on private insurance or switch to Medicare. Our belief is that the Medicare plan will be the most affordable and the most efficient, but we can’t know that unless everyone is given the choice to purchase a Medicare plan.”

Booker said, “Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health insurance – that should be a fundamental right. Our bill will provide more health insurance options for Americans by expanding Medicare to more people while also improving the program for existing enrollees.”

“We need to work across party lines to make health care more affordable and to give Wisconsinites more choices to find quality, affordable health insurance,” said Baldwin. “This legislation offers a new option for every American to buy more affordable, quality health care coverage through Medicare, and is a critical step to help reduce health insurance costs and increase competition.”

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.  Additionally, employers could choose to select Medicare Part E rather than private insurance to provide affordable and reliable health care to their employees. The full bill text is available here and a summary of the bill is available here.

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.