Sen. Bennet reintroduces ‘Medicare-X’ bill to create public option for health insurance

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    Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Wednesday unveiled the latest version of his “Medicare-X” proposal, which aims to increase competition and affordability on state health insurance exchanges by establishing a public option for coverage.

    “Medicare-X is the best way to cover everyone, reduce health costs, and improve the quality of health insurance for all Americans, including those who’ve historically suffered the most from poor access to quality coverage and care,” Bennet said in a statement.

    Under the proposal, the federal government would use existing Medicare provider networks and reimbursement rates to establish a public insurance option that would compete with private plans on the individual market. The Medicare-X option would become available on states’ individual insurance exchanges beginning in 2022, with rural areas, which often lack competition for individual plans, given priority. The plan would be rolled out across the country in 2025.

    The proposal, which Bennet first introduced with Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia in 2017, is one of several possible public option proposals being considered by Democrats. Passing a public option to “protect and build on” the Affordable Care Act was a key plank in President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign platform.

    With Democrats only narrowly in control of the Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, health care reform legislation will either need to pick up significant bipartisan support or be passed through budget reconciliation. But in a virtual press conference on the legislation’s reintroduction, Bennet told reporters that he’s confident that Medicare-X can win support from not only all of his Democratic colleagues, but from Republicans as well.

    “It is not something that can be brought down by the ideological talking points that have been used to attack other proposals over the years,” Bennet said. “I think this plan is going to be one that is very popular with the American people, and one that people are going to want to vote for on the floor of the Senate — and worried about voting against.”