2/15/2019 — 

WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have reintroduced the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public health care option to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.

“I want Rhode Islanders to have affordable choices when it comes to health care and prescription drugs,” said Senator Reed.  “The State Public Option Act is a prescription for just that.  It can help keep health insurers honest about what they charge and deliver cost-effective care to Rhode Islanders.”

“I’ve been a vocal advocate for creating a public health insurance option since I was elected to the Senate, and I will continue to do so until every single Rhode Islander has access to high quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Whitehouse, who co-authored public option legislation during the drafting of the ACA and introduced a similar bill last Congress.  “Increased competition driven by a publicly run insurance option will result in better, cheaper insurance for everyone in the marketplace.”

The State Public Option Act, led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan.  At least 14 states are exploring implementing a Medicaid public option within their legislatures.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found broad, bipartisan support for a Medicaid public option. Medicaid is a popular and cost-effective program with a large provider network. The program has the same positive ratings as private insurance, but provides health coverage at a much lower cost.  Based on partnerships between state and federal governments, Medicaid also gives states the flexibility to adapt services and models of care based on their individual needs.

Even with the progress of the ACA, nearly 30 million people remain uninsured, including 4.6 percent of Rhode Islanders in 2017.  This legislation will help workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage but may make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA.  The bill will also help consumers who live in other places across the country that have only one insurance carrier.

The legislation has sixty-one cosponsors in the Senate and House.