U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado is co-sponsoring legislation that would introduce a "public option" into the choices available to consumers under the Affordable Care Act.
The bill, which he co-sponsored with representavies Brian Higgins, Buffalo, and John Larson, D-Connecticut, would offer a government option in the individual and small business health insurance exchanges, using Medicare physician networks and reimbursement rates, and coverage standards set under the ACA.
"It is unacceptable that despite being the wealthiest country in the world, the United States is the only developed country without universal health care," said Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, who represents the 19th Congressional District. "This has been a top priority for me in Congress, and I'm proud to lead my colleagues in introducing a bill to finally give us universal coverage."
The sponsors are calling the bill the Medicare X Choice Act. It is unlikely to become law anytime soon: If the bill were to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the Republican-controlled Senate would be almost certain to ignore it.
The bill was introduced Monday, at a time when the Trump administration is challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act -- commonly referred to as Obamacare. President Donald Trump has criticized the law and sought its repeal in 2017, but on Tuesday Trump tweeted that Republicans would wait until after the 2020 elections to address health care.
A public option to compete with private insurance companies was part of the original 2009 ACA proposal, but ultimately wasn't included in the law in 2010. Republicans have been outspokenly against government-subsidized health care.
"Whether it be at town halls or meeting with constituents, the folks I talk to back home want access to more coverage options at lower costs," Delgado said. "The Medicare-X Choice Act would deliver by allowing those who are happy with their employer-provided insurance to keep it, while offering other, more affordable coverage options to those who need it. Adding a public option creates competition and will drive down premiums and deductibles."
The plan would put premiums paid into a separate trust fund from Medicaid, and would be phased in over several years, being offered in rural areas where limited health care options are available first.