WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Department of Justice refuses to defend the law that has extended health insurance coverage to over 20 million Americans, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his colleagues today to introduce the Consumer Health Options and Insurance Competition Enhancement (CHOICE) Act. This legislation would add a publicly operated health insurance option to the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces. Brown introduced the bill with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Instead of ripping coverage away from people the way President Trump’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act would do, we should be working to expand healthcare for everyone. This bill would give people the choice to join a Medicare-like plan if they want, and it would help lower costs for everyone by increasing competition in the market,” said Brown.
“Republicans are actively working through the court system to take health insurance away from 20 million Americans, after failing to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act in Congress,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Rather than throw out a system that is working well in Rhode Island and places across the country, we’re proposing simple fixes to increase competition and bring down costs. A public option ensures everyone has access to quality, affordable health insurance, and builds on the gains we’ve made.”
“I have advocated for a public option since I helped to write the Affordable Care Act in the 111th Congress, and I’m proud to reintroduce the CHOICE Act today with Senators Whitehouse and Brown, and many of my colleagues. This bill builds on the solid foundation created by the ACA instead of tearing it down, as Republicans have aimed to do through their actions over the past week,” said Schakowsky, a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “Adding a public option just makes sense. It means more choice for individuals, families, and small businesses; lower premiums; and greater access to the ACA’s benefits and protections. That is why a majority of Americans support a public option. Who opposes it? Insurance companies who care more about profits than individual health care costs and operate in many markets with little or even no competition.”
The Affordable Care Act set up health insurance marketplaces to make it easier for consumers to shop for health insurance and to drive insurers to compete on the price and quality of their plans. The marketplaces have been extremely effective in helping to expand coverage. While the rate of uninsured Americans has fallen significantly since 2010, it is currently at a four-year high as a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to sabotage the law. One way to combat the rising uninsured rate is to stimulate competition to drive down prices, especially in areas of the country with few insurers.
The CHOICE Act would create a public option subject to the same requirements that apply to other plans offered on Obamacare exchanges. It would offer the same premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available to individual marketplace consumers.
The Trump administration filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last week calling for the federal courts to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.