Sens. Tim Kaine, Michael Bennet reintroduce Medicare-X bill to improve health insurance plans

Politics

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY/WDVM) — The coronavirus pandemic has revealed inequities in our healthcare system that Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) say should not exist.

On Wednesday morning, the senators reintroduced their Medicare-X bill that they say would lower health care costs and get more Americans insured.

“It makes no sense, from a policy perspective, not to have universal healthcare,” Bennet said.

The Medicare-X bill would strengthen the Affordable Care Act, they say, by giving people another option on the public exchange.

Kaine told WAVY, “The idea is to do what a lot of my Republican colleagues say they want to do and use more competition and offerings as a way to give people more choices and ultimately drive cost down.”

Options on the exchange are often limited, especially in rural communities. Currently, 10% of counties have only one option for insurance on the exchange. Medicare-X would be available in these communities first and expand to every zip code by 2025.

Additionally, premiums for the poorest Americans would go down because tax subsidies would go up, and more middle-class Americans would pay less for insurance because they would get a tax credit.

It also gets rid of the so-called “family glitch” in the original Affordable Care Act. That piece itself might allow between two and six million Americans to get healthcare coverage, which is significant, Kaine said.

There would be no cost sharing for primary care so, no co-pays at the doctor’s office.

It would also allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices for Medicare Exchange plans and the Medicare Part D program.

WAVY asked about the cost to taxpayers.

“The congressional budget office has scored this and discovered that it actually creates savings for the federal government. I know that sounds counterintuitive but the reason is that the subsidies that the federal government would put out are less substantial with this plan than they are with subsidizing the private plans that exist today on the exchanges,” Bennet said.

If it passes, the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services will have to start offering it this year. They expect it to cover everyone in need by 2021-2024.

More information about the bill can be found here.

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