Delgado backs Medicare buy-in proposal

Rep. Antonio Delgado has become the prime House sponsor of a bill first introduced in 2017 that would allow people under 65 to buy Medicare coverage – the “public option” for health insurance that was dropped from the Affordable Care Act before Democrats passed it in 2010.

Delgado, the Rhinebeck Democrat who unseated Republican John Faso in New York’s 19th District in November, re-introduced the Medicare-X Choice Act this month. The bill would add Medicare to the menu of private health plans Americans can purchase through state insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“As the wealthiest country in the world, there is simply no excuse for us to be the only developed country left without universal health care,” Delgado said in a floor speech about the bill. “There are a lot of different ways to achieve universal health care, and I believe that a public option is the best way for us to get there.”

Proponents tout the “public option” bill as a moderate alternative to the “Medicare for All” vision other Democrats have embraced, which would eliminate private health plans and create a single, government-sponsored insurance system for all Americans. Neither Delgado nor Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney from the 18th District are among the 108 House co-sponsors of the “Medicare for All” bill.

Access to Medicare through state exchanges would be phased in, starting in 2021 in rural areas with one or no private plans available on their exchanges. It would be made available everywhere on the individual market in 2024 and opened to small businesses in 2025. The Medicare provider network would be expanded to include pediatricians and children’s hospitals. Medicare-X premiums would be kept separate from the trust fund that serves regular Medicare recipients.

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