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Here are some other health care options on the table right now


When it comes to fixing the U.S. health care system, it can seem like there aren't a lot of options. The GOP's latest bill to repeal and replace Obamacare seems dead, and Republicans have often argued that it's all or nothing, repeal Obamacare or America will be stuck with same system.

That's a problem for a lot of people. Obamacare premiums are expected to increase by double digits next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and insurance companies have threatened to stop offering plans on the exchanges, which could leave people in some counties with zero options for coverage.

But it's not all or nothing, Senators on both sides of the aisle have proposed different short-term solutions to fix the problems with the current health cares system. Here's a few you might not have heard about:

1. Let people buy get their insurance where members of Congress get theirs

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has introduced a bill that would help people who live in counties that don't have an insurance option on the federal exchanges by letting them buy coverage from the same place members of Congress get theirs; the small business exchange in Washington D.C.

Under the Health Care Options for All Act people living in "empty" counties can buy plans through the D.C. exchange known as SHOP. Under SHOP people receive contributions from their small business employers to help pay for coverage. Since most people on the individual markets are self employed, McCaskill's bill would set aside federal subsidies to help people pay for the SHOP plans if they meet a certain income threshold, just like people currently receiving subsidies under Obamacare.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected that there would be 63 counties across the U.S. with no insurance option on the federal exchanges in 2018. As of Sep. 20 there are no longer projected to be any counties without insurance options, but CMS projects there will be over 1,500 counties with only one option.

2. Let people enroll in Medicare sooner

Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and seven other Senate Democrats introduced a bill this summer called the Medicare at 55 act, and it would do just that -- let Americans enroll for Medicare coverage at age 55. Currently, you have to be 65 to qualify for Medicare.

It's a controversial idea that some lawmakers argue is the first step to a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system. Proponents say the bill would help both Medicare and the private insurance markets by getting slightly younger, healthier people enrolled in Medicare while also removing some of the oldest, and higher-cost people from the private insurance markets.

3. Let people form their own insurance groups across state lines

Republicans haven't been able to get a health care bill the President Trump's desk yet, but some of them still have ideas on how they can improve the current system in the short term. One idea is that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been negotiating with the White House is to expand the use of health care associations.

"This is allowing individuals to buy insurance across state lines and join together to get group policies," Paul said.

The idea is that the groups could use their collective power to leverage insurers to get better coverage and lower premiums.

President Trump on Wednesday told reporters that he is considering signing an executive order that would push Paul's proposal. A spokesman for Paul told Circa that the executive order and the deal Paul has been negotiating with Trump are the same.

4. Let insurers offer cheaper plans with less requirements

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is hoping Congress can pass a health care bill that includes his Consumer Freedom Amendment, which would leave existing Obamacare plans on the individual market, but let insurers also offer cheaper plans that's don't have to meet all of the current coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Health and Human Services released an analysis of the amendment in July which found that the plan would lower premiums and boost enrollment. However, independent alayses from groups like the American Academy of Actuaries.

The proposal would "lead to widespread adverse selection and unstable health insurance markets," according to an analysis from America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's leading trade group.

There's still hope for a bipartisan solution. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) had been leading hearings to cobble together legislation seeking to fix problems with the current system. Those hearings have been put on hold in the wake of the latest GOP repeal bill, but could be taken up again now that the bill is dead.

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