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Ghosts of Medicare Expansions Past (with Exclusive New Video)

Morgen on December 9, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Barack Obama likes to refer to the policies of the Bush Administration and Republican congresses circa 1994-2006 as “discredited” and “tired” ideas of the past. In contrast with the platform of Hopenchange by which he strode into office, leading to the unprecedented New Era of Everything we have been enjoying for the past 11 months. But there is no more tired idea from the past than the Democrats’ proposal to expand Medicare to more Americans.

The ink was barely dry on the original Medicare bill in 1966 when the Johnson Administration initiated a proposal to expand Medicare to include disabled individuals under age 65 as well as dental care for children. The Johnson Administration also unsuccessfully sought to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in 1968, as did congressional Democrats in 1973 and again in 1987. And the Clinton Administration in 1999. (Ultimately we have the Bush Administration and a Republican majority in Congress to thank for the Medicare prescription drug add-on which was signed into law in 2003.)

There is also precedent for the exact proposal currently being entertained in the Senate to expand Medicare coverage to older Americans from age 55-64. In fact, we need look no farther back than 2005 for a prime example. Here is the former Lion of the Senate, the now departed Sen. Ted Kennedy expounding on his Medicare expansion proposal at the National Press Club in January 2005:

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[Key Excerpt]: To make the transition from the current splintered system, I propose to phase in Medicare for All age group by age group. Starting with those closest to retirement, between 55 and 65. Aside from senior citizens themselves, they have the greatest health needs. And the highest health costs.

Earlier today I referred to the Senate compromise plan as “RahmCare”, given a similar proposal that the President’s Chief-of-Staff made at a congressional healthcare forum in 2007. But it turns out this isn’t RahmCare – it’s Kennedy’s long sought dream for Medicare for All. Down to the last detail.

Not only did Senate Democrats adopt Kennedy’s idea for the the initial phase-in of Medicare for Americans aged 55-64, but Kennedy’s plan also included granting eligible participants access to the quasi-private plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefit program. Which is the other key element of the public option “compromise”.


I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how we went from a situation only a week ago where not only was the defeat of the public option virtually inevitable, but where it’s defeat also threatened to bring the down the entire health reform effort along with it. And here we are now looking at the biggest step towards a single payer system since the inception of Medicare.

I don’t know how we got here but the conservative opposition and other aligned interests better wake up fast and mobilize against this. Senator Kennedy’s life-long dream is a nightmare for anyone who cares about individual liberty and the fiscal prosperity of our nation. This effort must be stopped if at all possible.

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Category: Health & Education, Politics |

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