03.26.21

Public Option for ACA Introduced in Senate, House

Bill would strengthen the health care law and provide 20 million Americans with a quality, affordable health care option

Washington, DC – Continuing the success of the American Rescue Plan’s provisions to improve health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) have introduced the Consumer Health Options and Insurance Competition Enhancement (CHOICE) Act, to add a publicly operated health insurance option to the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces.  The bicameral measure would guarantee American consumers access to a stable, low-cost, and high-quality plan in every health insurance market in the country.

“The pandemic has all of us focused on our health.  While the Affordable Care Act has made a big difference in many, many lives, adding a public option would build on this progress at a crucial moment,” said Whitehouse.  Whitehouse and Brown co-authored public option legislation during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act and has been a vocal advocate for a public option since being elected to the Senate.  “This bill would increase competition among private health insurance companies, bringing down costs for consumers and ensuring that a variety of top-notch health care choices are available.”

“President Trump and Senate Republicans spent years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act that provided millions of Ohioans with affordable coverage and preexisting conditions protections.  Under President Biden, we’re working to expand healthcare and make the system better for hardworking Americans.  This bill would give people the choice to join a Medicare-like plan if they want, and it would help lower costs for everyone by increasing competition in the market,” said Brown.

“I have advocated for a public option since I helped write the Affordable Care Act in the 111th Congress, and I am proud to see the CHOICE Act reintroduced this week with Senators Whitehouse and Brown. This bill builds on the solid foundation created by the ACA instead of tearing it down, as Republicans have constantly aimed to do,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Adding a public option means more choice for individuals, families, and small businesses; lower premiums; and, greater access to the ACA’s benefits and protections. That is why a majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike – support a public option. Who continues to oppose it? Insurance companies who care more about profits than individual health care costs and operate in many markets with little or even no competition.”

The Affordable Care Act set up health insurance marketplaces to make it easier for consumers to shop for health insurance and to drive insurers to compete on the price and quality of their plans.  The marketplaces have been extremely effective in helping to expand coverage.  While President Biden and Democrats in Congress just passed the American Rescue Plan to expand the Affordable Care Act, almost 30 million Americans are still uninsured.  An additional way to combat the rising uninsured rate is to stimulate competition to drive down prices, especially in areas of the country with few insurers.

The CHOICE Act, S.983, would create a public option subject to the same requirements that apply to other plans offered on Affordable Care Act exchanges.  It would offer the same premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available to individual marketplace consumers.