WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Jack Reed (D-RI), along with several of their colleagues, 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.  No one would be required to change their health plan under the bill’s terms.

“No American should go bankrupt over medical expenses, because every American deserves excellent health care at an affordable price,” said Senator 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.”

“When it comes to health care, people want it to be affordable, cover their needs, and they want options,” said Senator Reed. “Our bill gives Americans another choice to keep their costs down and get the coverage they need. Let’s hope the President and Republican leadership drop their efforts to repeal Obamacare and instead focus on bills like this.”

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 like any other insurance plan. 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 Choose Medicare Act builds on the most popular health care coverage program in the country – Medicare – both by opening the program to more people, and in making needed improvements to the existing program.  By increasing competition, we expect premiums in private health insurance to be reduced, providing a real benefit to consumers who do not choose to enroll in Medicare,” said Shawn Gremminger, Senior Director of Federal Relations for Families USA.

In addition to Merkley and Reed, Senators cosponsoring the Choose Medicare Act include: Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The Choose Medicare Act:

Increases Access, Competition, and Choice

•  Completely voluntary option.

•  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.