April 19, 2018

Heinrich, Udall cosponsor Medicare buy-in bill

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (l) and Martin Heinrich (r)

Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall support a Medicare buy-in bill that would allow individuals and companies to buy into the federally-run health care program, the latest bill to address healthcare introduced by Democrats that has little chance to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, introduced the legislation this week along with nine co-sponsors including the two New Mexico Democrats.

Sponsors of the bill say it will pay for itself through premiums and that it would drive down private insurance premiums because of the new competition.

The Murphy-Merkley bill, dubbed the Choose Medicare Act, would give both individuals and companies the option of buying health insurance coverage through a Medicare plan instead of private insurance. The idea is that Medicare prices are typically lower than private insurance, and this would extend to the new buy-in plans.

The bill would also ensure coverage for all reproductive rights services.

“It is time to recognize that health care is a human right and the best way to make that a reality in America is to build on what we all know works,” said Heinrich. “New Mexicans across the political spectrum recognize just how well the Medicare program delivers quality health care results at a reasonable cost.

This legislation is a great first step towards to 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. I will continue to support this and other efforts in Congress to make access to a public healthcare option a reality for the millions of Americans who desperately need it,” Udall said.

This is the fourth bill related to Medicare introduced by Senators since the beginning of 2017. The bill with the most attention is the Medicare-for-all bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, both because of the support Sanders received in the 2016 Democratic primary and the expectation that he will seek the Democratic nomination in 2020 and that it proposes single-payer health insurance.

Udall and Heinrich also cosponsored the Sanders Medicare bill. The difference between the Sanders Medicare-for-all bill and the other bills, including the Murphy-Merkley bill supported by Heinrich, is that the other bills instead allow people the option to purchase a Medicare health insurance plan.

Some see the plan as a sign that Democrats want to have a debate on health care during this election year, and beyond.

The bill almost certainly wouldn’t be heard, let alone pass, in the current Senate, with Republican leadership.