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Kaine is missing from public health option backers list

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Sen. Jeff Merkley has lined up 32 Democratic cosponsors for Senate Resolution 561, the “public option bill,” but, as of Sept. 26, not Sen. Tim Kaine.

Merkley, a Democrat from Washington state, is calling for the government to support “efforts to increase competition and accountability in the health insurance marketplace” by offering every American the “choice of a public insurance plan,” according to the resolution text, which was introduced Sept. 15.

The list of cosponsors includes Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the outgoing minority leader, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is viewed as Reid’s successor.

Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s running mate, has stayed off the list.

While serving as governor of Virginia, Kaine hired Marilyn Tavenner to be his health secretary.

Related: 6 things to know about Tim Kaine and insurance

Tavenner, a former hospital executive, went on to become the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services while the Affordable Care Act was being implemented. She is now president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a Washington-based health insurance company trade group.

Many AHIP members sell Medicare Advantage plans and managed Medicaid plans.

The text of S.Res. 561 describes how a public option program might operate only in general terms. 

“Public programs like Medicare often deliver care more cost-effectively by limiting administrative overhead and securing better prices from providers,” according to the resolution text.

The text does not say whether the federal government, the state government or some other entity would run the public option program. 

Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., introduced a more detailed public option bill, H.R. 265, in the House, in January 2015. That bill, which has 36 cosponsors, would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to offer a public health insurance option benefit plan exclusively through the ACA exchange system.

The HHS secretary could hire private companies to administer the H.R. 265 public option plans. Premiums for the coverage would have to be high enough to cover the cost of the coverage.

>The program would start out having all Medicare providers be in-network providers, but it would let the Medicare providers opt out of the program network.


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