January 24, 2017

Whitehouse, Brown, Franken, Schakowsky Introduce Public Option for Obamacare

As Republicans push total repeal, Democrats seek to strengthen the health care law and maintain coverage for 20 million Americans

Washington, D.C. – As congressional Republicans try to tear down the law that has extended health insurance coverage to over 20 million Americans, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Al Franken (D-MN) 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 individual marketplaces.  The measure is intended to guarantee American consumers access to an affordable, high quality plan in every health insurance market in the country.

“Republicans want to take away health insurance from 20 million Americans and wait years to pass an Obamacare replacement.  That’s after nearly a decade of failing to come up with their own serious alternative,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  Whitehouse co-authored public option legislation during the drafting of the health care law. “Let’s make our health care law better by holding on to what works and fixing what doesn’t, like the lack of adequate competition in some markets.  A public option ensures everyone has access to quality, affordable health insurance, and builds on the gains we’ve made.”

“Ohioans across the state are calling my office to share their stories of struggling with pre-existing conditions like Crohn’s disease or battling opioid addiction.  Instead of kicking them off of their health insurance and causing premiums to skyrocket for everyone, let’s work together to bring down costs by adding choice and competition to the market,” said Brown.

“Hard working families in Minnesota and across the nation need access to affordable, quality health care.  That’s why I’m in favor of building on the Affordable Care Act and pushing real reforms for families and people that need help now, rather than repealing the law and pulling the rug out from millions of Americans without a real replacement,” said Franken.  “Creating a public option will help stabilize prices in the private insurance market, increase competition, cut premiums, and save taxpayers in Minnesota and across our country billions of dollars.  If Republicans in Congress are serious about keeping down health care costs for Americans, they should pass this bill.”‎

“I’m proud to join Senator Whitehouse today in introducing the CHOICE Act, which builds on the solid foundation created by the Affordable Care Act. Adding a public option just makes sense: more choice for individuals, families and small businesses; lower premiums; and greater access.  That is why a majority of Americans support a public option.  Who opposes it?  Insurance corporations who want to hold all the cards and operate in markets with little or even no competition,” said Schakowsky.

President Obama’s health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” 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 – the rate of uninsured Americans has fallen from 16 percent in 2010 to 8.6 percent now – but some areas of the country do not have enough insurers to stimulate the necessary competition to drive down prices as the law’s drafters intended.

The CHOICE Act would create a public option subject to all the same requirements that apply to other plans offered on Obamacare exchanges.  It would offer the same premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available to individual marketplace consumers.  You can read more about the bill, S. 194 in the Senate, here.


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