Dems Are Pushing Government-Run Health Insurance

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Nearly 20 congressional Democrats are introducing a bill that would grant states the ability to create a public option in the health insurance marketplace.

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico are championing the bill, but it has no fewer than 17 Democratic cosponsors in the House and Senate, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California.

“Our objective should be to have a competition of ideas … I think it’s a golden age in terms of policy ideas when it comes to Democrats and health care,” Schatz told reporters Wednesday. “We want to make sure that people understand that we have a vision for the future.”

Schatz has been floating a Medicaid-for-All proposal as a potential solution to the problems with Obamacare since late August, after it became all but certain that Republicans would not be able to repeal and replace Obamacare in 2017.

The solution Schatz is crafting is not a new idea for Democrats.

A public option would essentially “be a government-sponsored and government-run insurance plan, probably modeled on the traditional Medicare program, which would be offered to customers on the exchanges as an alternative to the private-insurance plans,” according to AEI.

Former President Barack Obama and former top Obamacare official Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel have put forth the idea of a public option as an answer to the seemingly inevitable collapse of Obama’s landmark health care legislation.

For his part, Emanuel wrote a piece for the Washington Post in 2016 in which he acknowledged there were problems with Obamacare and provided a five-prong solution to fixing them. The most important of these solutions was a public option to the healthcare exchanges. He wrote that “we should consider a public option,” because “consumers should never be subject to the whims of insurer withdrawals or withdrawal threats.”

Emanuel’s sentiment was an echo of Obama’s own words in a 2016 piece for the Journal of the American Medical Association. He said the path to continued progress is through “continuing to implement the Health Insurance Marketplaces and delivery system reform, increasing federal financial assistance for Marketplace enrollees,” and by “introducing a public plan option in areas lacking individual market competition.”

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