02.15.19

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Reintroduce Legislation to Create State Public Health Care Option

State Public Option Act will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents, regardless of income

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin helped reintroduce the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation led by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), to create a Medicaid-based public health care option to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.

“Wisconsinites have sent a clear message to Washington that they want us to work together to expand access to health care and lower costs. I’m working to make sure they have more options for quality health insurance coverage at a price they can afford,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to support Senator Schatz’ legislation that would allow states to offer people a choice to buy into the Medicaid program. This would grant more Wisconsinites the opportunity to buy into Wisconsin’s popular BadgerCare program.”

“Our bill will unlock each state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wants it, giving people a high-quality, low-cost public health insurance option,” said Senator Schatz. “Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that every single American has comprehensive health care coverage.”

“Democrats are hard at work developing solutions to strengthen the ACA, expand health coverage, and drive down health care costs for the American people,” said Representative Luján. “A state public option would make real strides in our fight for universal coverage. That’s why 14 states are already considering using a Medicaid Buy-In to close their coverage gaps and save families money. We’ve seen tremendous progress around this idea in New Mexico, and I look forward to continue to working with Senator Schatz to replicate that success on the national level.”

The State Public Option Act will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan. At least 14 states are exploring implementing a Medicaid public option within their legislatures. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found broad, bipartisan support for a Medicaid public option. 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.

Even with the progress of the ACA, nearly 30 million people remain uninsured. This legislation will help workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage but may make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. The bill will also help consumers who live in counties with only one insurance carrier or who worry they may soon have no options for affordable coverage.

“I commend Senator Schatz, Representative Luján, and their co-sponsors for their leadership in putting forward the State Public Option Act,” said Andy Slavitt, United States of Care Board Chair and former Acting 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 addition to Senators Baldwin and Schatz, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Earlier this week, Senator Baldwin introduced the Medicare at 50 Act to give people between the ages of 50 and 64 years old the option of buying into Medicare.