WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) today introduced legislation to create Medicare-X, a public plan that would offer families, individuals, and small businesses additional, low-cost health insurance choices and create more competition in the marketplace. The Medicare-X Choice Act would build on the Medicare framework to establish a public insurance plan offered on the individual and small business health exchanges, allowing Americans to choose among the existing private insurance plans or a public one. The bill introduction comes on the heels of President Trump’s actions last week to destabilize the individual market, including his announcement that he is ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which will cause premiums to rise and could drive insurers out of the marketplace.
The Medicare-X plan initially would be available in areas where there is a shortage of insurers or higher health care costs due to less competition—including rural communities in Colorado and Virginia. By 2023, Medicare-X would expand to every ZIP code in the country. By 2024, the public plan would be added as another option on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace.
“I want Virginians — and all Americans — to have more health care choices," said Kaine. "By creating an affordable Medicare-X policy, consumers can compare it with available private options and make the choice best for their health. It would ultimately be available in every zip code in the country and would be particularly helpful in rural communities that face a shortage of insurance options.”
“Too many Coloradans have had to make choices about health care that no one else in the industrialized world has had to make,” said Bennet. “This is unacceptable. In rural communities, limited competition is leaving many Coloradans with fewer choices, and, in some cases, only one high-cost option. Medicare-X is a plan that begins to fix this problem by giving families and individuals a meaningful and affordable alternative. And as it expands to other communities, it will move us toward our goal of ensuring everyone in our country has quality health care.”
The Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage to more than 20 million Americans, established critical protections for patients with preexisting conditions, slowed health care cost growth, and created a standard for essential health benefits. However, too many Americans still live in areas with limited competition and unaffordable health care costs.
Under the Bennet-Kaine plan, Americans around the country would have access to low-cost, high-quality health insurance. Medicare-X would use Medicare’s network of doctors, require similar reimbursement rates, and guarantee the essential health benefits established in the ACA for families, such as maternity care and mental health services. Additionally, it would ensure access to affordable prescription drugs by offering prices negotiated in conjunction with the Medicare Part D program.