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Honorable Tim Walz

Representing the 1st District of MINNESOTA

Walz Introduces Legislation to Create Health Care Public Option

Nov 1, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Tim Walz (MN-01) joined Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) to introduce the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public health care option on the insurance marketplace, which will provide Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance. The bill already has more than 30 cosponsors in both the House and Senate.

“Throughout our health care reform journey, my guiding principle has remained the same: ensure every single one of my constituents has access to affordable, high-quality health care,” said Walz. “In southern Minnesota and across the nation, Medicaid has proven to be an effective means of providing folks with access to quality care they can afford. The State Public Option Act would allow states to open up the promise of Medicaid to all, making universal health care a real possibility in our lifetimes. Health care is a right, not a privilege, and our work is not done until we ensure everyone in this country has access to it.”

The State Public Option Act would allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all state residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven, high-quality Medicaid health insurance plan.

Medicaid is a popular and cost-effective program with a large provider network.  The program has the same positive ratings as private insurance, but provides health coverage at a much lower cost. A majority of Americans have a favorable view of Medicaid, and a vast majority of Americans currently covered through Medicaid are satisfied with the program.

Based on partnerships between state and federal governments, Medicaid also gives states the flexibility to adapt services and models of care based on their individual needs.

Even with the progress made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly 30 million people remain uninsured. The new public option legislation would be particularly helpful for people without employer-sponsored coverage who make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. The bill will also help consumers in parts of the country with only one insurance carrier or who fear that they will be left with no insurance options by providing a low-cost way to get covered.

A number of former Medicaid directors and administrators of Medicare/Medicaid services have voiced their support for the State Public Option Act bill:

“I commend all the co-sponsors for their leadership in putting forward the State Public Option Act,” said Andy Slavitt, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “The opportunity to buy into Medicaid is a pragmatic approach to help Americans who still don’t have access to comprehensive health care coverage and a step towards ensuring our country fulfills its commitment to make sure all Americans have access to care. I believe that this is an approach that Americans across the political spectrum can support, and look forward to a robust public conversation about the details of the proposal.”

“I've seen how Medicaid helps improve the lives of millions of people through access to quality health care,” said Vikki Wachino, former Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. “With this bill, we can unlock that access for many more Americans--and do it in an efficient, effective manner.”

In the Senate, the Schatz-led legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Tom Udall (D-NM). In addition to Walz, the Luján-led House bill is cosponsored by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Andre Carson (D-IN), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Delaney (D-MD), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dina Titus(D-NV),  and Paul Tonko (D-NY).