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Public Option to be Replaced by Medicare Buy-In?

John on December 8, 2009 at 6:19 am

That’s what Politico is saying. They want to have the deal done by Tuesday afternoon:

Under the compromise, the public option would be removed from the bill and replaced with a new government-administered national insurance plan similar to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, which serves members of Congress and federal workers.

To sweeten the deal for liberals, people 55 and older would be able to “buy-in” to Medicare and purchase coverage in the popular government program for the elderly. Liberal Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia have been pushing the idea for years.


The negotiating group is also looking to expand Medicaid to cover people with incomes 150 percent above the poverty line, up from 133 percent under the Senate bill, and to impose stronger regulations on private insurers.

I can see this working for liberals. The public option has increasingly become an albatross. All this really does is allow them to get there by another means. They open the program (Medicare) to those 55 or older and in a few years — having changed the eligibility once — they argue that it should be 45 or 35. Eventually, it’s Medicare for all, which is essentially what the public option was aiming for anyway, i.e. single-payer over time.

Of course Medicare and Medicaid are both going bankrupt fast. The only way they survive now is that doctors compensate for the low reimbursement by charging more to private insurers. This move will force private plan premiums to go up as more people go on the government option (Medicare).

This will not control costs. On the contrary, the collapse of Medicare and Medicaid will accelerate under the added load. Significant new taxes will be required to keep the programs afloat. They won’t talk much about that.

So why is expanding these failing programs a good idea? Why is it any better than a public option down the road? It sounds to me like all they’ve done here is identify the public option as Medicare and (for the moment) restrict it to people age 55-65. It’s still the camel’s nose under the tent. It still winds up with an ever-expanding government system that blows an increasingly hole in the budget.

I’ll revise and extend my remarks if I see something that changes my opinion. But at this point my thought is anything that Mr. Public Option aka Howard Dean recommended is just another thinly-veiled path to single-payer.

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