A recently introduced Medicaid public option bill could create a low-cost, public alternative to private health insurance at the state level, increasing access to health coverage for uninsured Americans. On Friday, U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D., (WA-08), U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced HR.4974, or the State Public Option Act.
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The bill has several provisions:
“Create a state option to expand Medicaid eligibility to all state residents not already enrolled in health insurance; improve access to quality care for Medicaid patients by incentivizing providers; and provide incentives for states to take up the Medicaid expansion.”
The number of uninsured American has declined significantly since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, but approximately 30 million people remain without health coverage, according to CDC data.
Sen. Schatz said:
“Our bill will open up each state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wants it, giving people a high-quality, low-cost public health insurance option. Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that every single American has comprehensive health care coverage.”
Several states have introduced public option legislation, including Washington, Colorado, and Nevada. Having a public option can create market competition and lower premiums, according to Rep. Schrier. In 2018, 45% of uninsured adults cited high costs as the reason they were without coverage, according to the American Medical Association.
For Americans who lost employment due to the pandemic, this could be crucial. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although the current federal unemployment rate (5.4% as of July 2021) has declined from the February-April 2020 recession, it is still higher than pre-pandemic levels (3.5% in February 2021).
Rep. Schrier said:
“American families are hurting right now as they face high costs of health care and prescription drugs. And due to the pandemic, too many people have lost their jobs and job-related health insurance. By creating a public option with an already-established program like Medicaid, this could be implemented quickly, giving relief to millions of people.”
The public option bill has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means for consideration.