Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on Thursday reintroduced legislation that, if passed, would create a Medicaid-based public health care option.
The State Public Option Act would allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for residents regardless of income, allowing individuals who are not currently eligible for Medicaid to purchase state-sponsored coverage similar to Medicaid. Luján and Schatz introduced a similar bill in 2017.
Luján said in a statement that the bill is part of an effort to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expand health coverage and drive down health care costs.
“A state public option would make real strides in our fight for universal coverage,” Luján said. “That’s why 14 states are already considering using a Medicaid Buy-In to close their coverage gaps and save families money. We’ve seen tremendous progress around this idea in New Mexico, and I look forward to continue working with Sen. Schatz to replicate that success on the national level.”
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found bipartisan support for a Medicaid public option. The poll found that 75 percent, including 64 percent of Republicans, favor allowing people who aren’t covered by their employer to buy insurance through their state’s Medicaid program.
But the idea isn’t sitting well with medical insurance companies.
America’s Health Insurance Plans lobbyist Brent Moore told a New Mexico legislative panel last week that medical insurance companies are concerned that a Medicaid buy-in system could erode the market for individual health insurance, The Associated Press reported. Moore also said private insurance providers worry that low Medicaid reimbursement rates could drive away medical providers.
The bill had 61 co-sponsors as of Thursday, including U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico.