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Ahead Of ACA Anniversary, Schatz, Luján Reintroduce Legislation To Create Public Health Insurance Option, Provide More People With Affordable Health Care

Bill Would Open Up State Medicaid Programs to Everyone, Regardless of Income; Builds on Progress Made Under ACA Which Passed 14 Years Ago This Week

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) today reintroduced the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public health insurance option by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.

“Even with all of the progress we’ve made in recent years to expand access to health care and make it more affordable, many Americans still lack coverage,” said Senator Schatz. “By opening up state Medicaid programs to everyone regardless of income, our bill will help close the coverage gap and provide every American with a high-quality, low-cost insurance option.”

“For communities to thrive, Americans need access to quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Luján. “A state public option puts us one step closer to universal coverage for all Americans. That's why I'm proud to re-introduce this legislation that would bolster our health care system and ensure more New Mexicans have access to life-saving care.”

The State Public Option Act will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to enroll in a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan. State public option programs have been shown to lower costs, increase consumers’ choice in plans, and improve equity in coverage. Several states – including Maine, Minnesota, and New Mexico – are currently exploring creating a Medicaid buy-in option.

Despite the progress made under the Affordable Care Act, which passed 14 years ago this week and has brought the rate of uninsured Americans to an all-time low, nearly 26 million of Americans still lack coverage. This legislation will help workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage but may make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA get affordable insurance. It will also help consumers who live in counties with limited insurance carriers and worry about the lack of options for affordable coverage. Additionally, in the face of sweeping Republican attacks on reproductive freedom across the country, the bill requires states to cover sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion care, in all of their Medicaid buy-in plans.

Medicaid is a popular and cost-effective program with a large provider network. The program has the same positive ratings as private insurance, but provides health coverage at a much lower cost. Based on partnerships between state and federal governments, Medicaid also gives states the flexibility to adapt services and models of care based on their individual needs.

In the Senate, the Schatz-Luján legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Kim Schrier (D-Wash.).

The full text of the State Public Option Act is available here.