Udall, Heinrich, Lujan Grisham Join Luján In Introducing Bicameral Legislation To Create Health Care Public Option

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) today introduced the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public health care option on the insurance marketplace, which will provide Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.
The bill already has more than 35 cosponsors in both the House and Senate including Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-MN).
“Our goal with this bill is simple – to expand the availability of low-cost, high-quality health plans to all Americans by establishing a state public option through Medicaid,” Luján said. “Our bill builds on a system that already works – a system that is already in place in every county in every state in the country; and a system that has built-in efficiencies. We think our approach will positively impact Americans at all income levels in all parts of the country – especially middle-class and working class families, so it is targeted at those who face some of the greatest challenges in finding affordable care.”
The State Public Option Act would allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all state residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven, high-quality Medicaid health insurance plan. Medicaid is a popular and cost-effective program with a large nation-wide provider network. 
The program has the same positive ratings as private insurance, but provides health coverage at a much lower cost. A majority of Americans have a favorable view of Medicaid, and the vast majority of Americans currently covered through Medicaid say they are satisfied with the program.
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. The lawmakers noted that in New Mexico, the Medicaid program is extremely important to thousands of families.
Last year, 27% of all residents of New Mexico (more than 787,100 people) were covered by the state’s Medicaid/CHIP program. 76% of adult and child Medicaid enrollees in the state are in families with at least one family member working full-time.
“Instead of pushing dangerous TrumpCare bills that would strip away health care from millions, and instead of trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, we should be working to ensure that every New Mexican and every American gets the health care they and their families need,” Udall said. “We have made incredible progress under the Affordable Care Act, but health care costs are still too high, and too many Americans are struggling to afford care. This common-sense legislation would provide families with an affordable and proven option for good health insurance, and it will bring us closer to a future where every American is covered.”
“It is time to recognize that health care is a human right and the best way to make that a reality in America is to build on what we all know works,” Heinrich said. “As a Medicaid expansion state, New Mexico has seen dramatic gains over the last five years in coverage for the folks that need it most, including many school children, seniors in nursing homes, people with disabilities, and people who need treatment for mental health and addiction. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation and remain committed to finding solutions that expand coverage and provide more affordable health care options for working families in New Mexico.”
“We must move toward recognizing health care as a human right, and that means offering new paths to coverage through federal health programs that are working. States should have the option to offer Medicaid as a way to ensure choice and affordability in the health insurance marketplace,” Grisham said. “I support this attempt to make Medicaid more widely available, as well as an alternative approach I have proposed to target a Medicaid buy-in option for counties with few or no options in the insurance marketplace.”
According to data provided by the healthcare policy organization, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Medicaid/CHIP program in New Mexico covers:
  • 1 in 5 adults under age 65
  • 1 in 2 children
  • 2 in 3 nursing home residents
  • 1 in 2 people with disabilities
Even with the progress made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly 30 million people remain uninsured. The new public option legislation would be particularly helpful for people without employer-sponsored coverage who make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. The bill will also help consumers in parts of the country with only one insurance carrier or who fear that they will be left with no insurance options by providing a low-cost way to get covered.
A number of former Medicaid directors and administrators of Medicare/Medicaid services have voiced their support for the State Public Option Act bill:
“I commend all the co-sponsors for their leadership in putting forward the State Public Option Act,” said Andy Slavitt, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “The opportunity to buy into Medicaid is a pragmatic approach to help Americans who still don’t have access to comprehensive health care coverage and a step towards ensuring our country fulfills its commitment to make sure all Americans have access to care. I believe that this is an approach that Americans across the political spectrum can support, and look forward to a robust public conversation about the details of the proposal.”
In the Senate, Schatz’s legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Tom Udall (D-NM) In the House, the Luján bill is cosponsored by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Andre Carson (D-IN), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Delaney (D-MD), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dina Titus(D-NV),  Paul Tonko (D-NY), Timothy Walz (D-MN).

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