Two Democratic senators on Wednesday reintroduced a plan for creating a public option for health care in the U.S.
Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Tim Kaine of Virginia propose to create a government-operated health care plan that would compete with privately run plans sold through the federal insurance marketplaces.
Kaine said he would push to advance the proposal, called the Medicare-X Choice Act, through the reconciliation process, which would allow Democrats to pass the bill with a simple majority of votes in the Senate. Assuming no Republicans support the legislation, reconciliation would require all 50 Democratic senators to get behind the bill, which its backers say is a real possibility, given that it is close to what President Biden ran on last fall.
"I think we are in the spot where Joe Biden was during the campaign, and that suggests to me that this could be a consensus position for Democrats going forward," Bennet told reporters.
What the plan would do: The proposed public option would work much like Medicare, with added features to account for a younger population, according to The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann. Providers currently in the Medicare network would be required to participate, and at similar reimbursement rates, though doctors and hospitals in rural areas could see upward adjustments of up to 150%. There would be no co-pays or deductibles for patients.
The public option would be rolled out over a period of years, first in rural areas that have had trouble attracting coverage in the ACA marketplaces before going nationwide by 2025. Like Obamacare, the plan would operate with federal subsidies to help people afford the insurance. Families earning less than 150% of the poverty level would pay no premiums.
The Bennet-Kaine proposal would also allow the government to negotiate the prices of drugs — a key provision that experts say could play an important role in driving down costs throughout the health care system.