February 14, 2019

Cortez Masto, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Create Public Health Care Option

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Senate Democratic colleagues to introduce the State Public Option Act to create a Medicaid-based public health care option to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance. Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Establishing a Medicaid public option will provide families with full coverage, low-cost insurance that they can purchase on the existing health care marketplaces. I firmly believe a public option would make our health care system more competitive and lower costs across the board, particularly in underserved and rural communities. We’ve already seen the gains Nevada has made under Medicaid expansion, and the State Public Option Act would build upon that success and empower Nevada and states across the country to extend a public insurance option to all its residents. We must continue working in Congress to find ways to ensure that hardworking Americans are able to receive the quality, affordable health care they need.” 

“Our bill will unlock each state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wants it, giving people a high-quality, low-cost public health insurance option,” said Senator Schatz. “Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that every single American has comprehensive health care coverage.”

In the Senate, Schatz’s legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).


The State Public Option Act will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan. This legislation will help workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage but may make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. The bill will also help consumers who live in counties with only one insurance carrier or who worry they may soon have no options for affordable coverage.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found broad, bipartisan support for a Medicaid public option. 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. 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.