Medicare Part E – For Everyone – Will Allow Everyone With Private Insurance the Option of Medicare, Increase Marketplace Competition

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Murphy, a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), on Wednesday joined by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), introduced the Choose Medicare Act to give every individual who is not already eligible for Medicaid or Medicare the opportunity to enroll in Medicare as an individual. The Choose Medicare Act also gives every employer the ability to purchase Medicare for their employees. Earlier today, Murphy, Merkley and Baldwin held a press conference to unveil the legislation. 

“If privately run health care is better than Medicare, then let the private sector prove it. It’s time to allow every American family and every American business the chance to choose Medicare if it’s the right product for their family members or employees. The Choose Medicare Act does this,” said Murphy. “Why on earth do we force people to wait until they turn 65 to have access to the most popular, most efficient health insurance product in the country? By allowing every American to choose Medicare if they want it, we will increase competition and choice for individuals and businesses. That’s what our constituents tell us they badly want.”

“No American should go bankrupt over medical expenses, because every American deserves excellent health care at an affordable price,” said Merkley. “This isn’t a pie in the sky idea. We already have an affordable, popular solution – it’s called Medicare. The Choose Medicare Act creates a Medicare option available to every American, putting consumers and businesses in the driver’s seat on the pathway to universal health care.”

“The Choose Medicare Act will help us achieve universal health care coverage by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and giving Americans more affordable options in the marketplace,” said Feinstein. “It will also drive down costs by stopping unreasonable rate increases, eliminating the subsidy cliff for many middle-class families and lowering prescription drug prices through direct negotiations between the Secretary of Health and Human Services and drug manufacturers.” 

“This bill would lower health care costs across the board by giving all Americans the choice to buy into a popular, affordable, and high quality health care option: Medicare,” said Blumenthal. “I’m proud to support this thoughtful proposal that would move us closer to our ultimate goal: ensuring every American has access to high quality, affordable health care.”

“President Trump has spent the last two years sabotaging our health care system, raising health care costs and pushing junk insurance plans that do not have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. He has even gone to court to win a lawsuit that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and health care for over 20 million Americans. The choice for the American people couldn’t be more clear - we want to make things better and he is doing everything he can to make things worse,” said Baldwin. “The Choose Medicare Act offers a new option for every American to buy more affordable, quality health care coverage through Medicare. In addition, it would open Medicare to employers of all sizes and allow them to purchase high quality, affordable health care for their employees, instead of, or in addition to, private insurance. Our legislation would be a critical step forward to help increase competition and reduce health insurance costs.”

Medicare is consistently rated the most popular and efficient health insurance system in the United States. The new plan, Medicare Part E, would be self-sustaining and fully paid for by premiums. Medicare Part E would be offered on all state and federal exchanges, and people could use the existing Affordable Care Act subsidies to help pay for it. In addition, employers would have the opportunity to provide Medicare Part E to their employees instead of or in addition to private insurance. The full bill text is available here and a summary of the bill is available here.

The Choose Medicare Act:

Increases Access, Competition, and Choice

  • Opens Medicare to employers of all sizes and allows them to purchase high quality, affordable health care for their employees without requiring replacement of employment-based health insurance.
  • Addresses the discrepancy between consumer protections in the individual and group markets by extending the Affordable Care Act’s rating requirements to all markets, to end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions once and for all.

Provides Comprehensive Coverage

  • Includes the ACA’s 10 essential health benefits and all items and services covered by Medicare.
  • Provides high-quality, gold-level coverage and cost-sharing.
  • Ensures coverage for all reproductive services including abortion.

Improves affordability

  • Establishes an out-out-pocket maximum in traditional Medicare.
  • Increases the generosity of premium tax credits and extends eligibility to middle-income earners.  
  • Directs Medicare to negotiate fair prices for prescription drugs.
  • Drives down private insurance premiums through competition from Medicare by allowing the HHS Secretary to block excessive insurance rates.
  • Extends traditional Medicare protections on balance billing or surprise medical bills to Part E plans.