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NM senators back ‘Medicare for all’

WASHINGTON – New Mexico’s U.S. senators this week endorsed a bill that could dramatically reshape the U.S. health care system by allowing all Americans to enroll in the Medicare program traditionally designed for use by the elderly.

The legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both New Mexico Democrats, would also allow employers to purchase Medicare for their employees. The bill is one of several introduced in the current Congress to expand coverage beyond that provided for under the Affordable Care Act.

The so-called “Medicare for All” legislation has virtually no chance of becoming law in the current Congress as Republicans who oppose the idea control both the House and Senate. But it indicates growing support among national Democrats for moving toward a single-payer health care system.

The bill’s primary sponsors are Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. A news release from Udall and Heinrich said the bill “would be self-sustaining and fully paid for by premiums.”

Under the proposal, Medicare Part E would be offered on all state and federal exchanges, and people could use existing subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to help pay for it. Employers could opt in to Medicare Part E rather than private insurance to provide employees health care that supporters describe as affordable and reliable.

Heinrich, who is running for a second term this year, said the bill would expand a health care system that has proven to work for millions of Americans.

“New Mexicans across the political spectrum recognize just how well the Medicare program delivers quality health care results at a reasonable cost,” Heinrich said. “This legislation would allow individuals and employers to buy more affordable, quality health care coverage through Medicare, and is a critical step to expanding coverage and providing more health care options for New Mexicans.”

“This legislation is a great first step towards our goal of universal coverage and lower health care costs, giving all New Mexicans and Americans the ability to purchase a new affordable, comprehensive Medicare plan,” Udall said in a statement.

In September, Udall and Heinrich signed on to similar legislation sponsored by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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