Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today reintroduced 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 updated Medicare-X Choice Act of 2019 further lowers premiums and increases coverage for Medicare-X consumers and those in the individual market.
“It is a disgrace that people’s lives are upended daily in our country because they have no health insurance,” Bennet said. “We need to cover everyone, reduce costs, and improve quality—and Medicare-X is the best way to accomplish those objectives. Medicare-X starts in rural areas because the market there is failing too many Americans. And by using the existing Medicare framework, it provides a new, affordable option without adding bureaucracy. There is no excuse for us not to finish what the ACA started and close the coverage gap in America through Medicare-X.”
“Our goal is more health care options and lower costs,” Kaine said. “With those priorities top of mind, we introduced Medicare-X to give Americans more quality, affordable health care choices, especially in rural communities that face a shortage of insurance options. This bill takes additional steps to reduce premiums, increase coverage, and make health insurance more affordable. I want to make sure that Virginians – and all Americans – can get the care they need.”
Despite the success of the Affordable Care Act, too many Americans still live in areas with limited competition and unaffordable health care costs. In 2019, 17 percent of those enrolled on the exchanges lived in an area with just one insurer.
The plan would build on the Medicare framework to establish a public insurance option. Medicare-X initially would be available on the individual exchange 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 2024, Medicare-X would expand to every ZIP code in the country. By 2025, the public plan would be added as another option on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace.
Medicare-X would use Medicare’s network of doctors and providers and guarantee the essential health benefits established in the ACA, 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.
The legislation includes several key updates to further lower costs and increase coverage. It eliminates the subsidy cliff for Americans above 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), ultimately ensuring individuals do not pay more than 13 percent of their income toward their premium for a benchmark plan. It also increases the tax credit for individuals below 400% FPL, authorizes $30 billion over three years for a national reinsurance program, and establishes a grant program to integrate social needs in the delivery of health care services.
In addition to Bennet and Kaine, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).