Senate Democrats unveil health care proposal with public option

Two Democratic senators released their version of a public option health care plan Wednesday, setting the stage for this year’s debate over how best to expand coverage to the millions of people who are uninsured.

The proposal from Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) would create a government-run health care plan on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges to compete with plans offered by private insurers with the hope of driving down costs.

Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate could complicate any major health care reform, though Kaine said he will push for the proposal to be passed via reconciliation, which avoids the filibuster and requires only 51 votes

The upper chamber is split 50-50 between the two parties, with Vice President Harris serving as a tie-breaker.

That means that with no GOP converts, every single Democrat would need to get on board with the plan, which Kaine and Bennet argue is closest to what President Biden ran on.

“I think we are in the spot where Joe Biden was during the campaign, and that suggests to me that this could be a consensus position for Democrats going forward,” Bennet told reporters Wednesday.

Looking ahead: Other public option and single-payer proposals are likely to be reintroduced soon, reigniting the debate over how best to expand access to health care that inflamed tensions during the Democratic presidential primary.