Building on the Best of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act
Since efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, and bipartisan attempts to improve the law have stalled, some policymakers are now looking beyond incremental fixes. In this paper, Urban Institute researchers present a set of policy ideas that would provide universal access to comprehensive coverage but would also allow people to keep their employer-sponsored coverage, would offer a range of insurer options and ensure broad pooling of health care risk, would not have an employer mandate, would provide income-related federal assistance, and would create a more flexible individual incentive to remain insured than that under the ACA. The proposal builds on components of the Medicare program and the ACA Marketplaces. However, it simplifies the current health insurance system by integrating Medicaid acute care for nonelderly people and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—while preserving access to their benefits—with coverage for people enrolled in private nongroup insurance and people currently uninsured. This large new Medicare-style marketplace, featuring a public plan and private insurer options, would contain costs by fostering competition among many insurers, capping provider payment rates, and addressing prescription drug pricing. This proposal is less ambitious than a single-payer system (i.e., Medicare for All), but it would get close to universal coverage with much lower increases in federal spending and less disruption for people currently enrolled in employer coverage or Medicare. They estimate that the plan would result in 15.9 million fewer uninsured people and reduce total health care spending by $28.9 billion in its first full year of implementation.