Policy-ish

Compromise On Public Option Could Allow Medicare At 55

OK, liberals, we know you're worried the public option may soon be a casualty of wheeling and dealing in the Senate.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller i i

hide captionSen. Rockefeller is sick of whining about alternatives to the public option.

Susan Walsh/AP
Sen. Jay Rockefeller

Sen. Rockefeller is sick of whining about alternatives to the public option.

Susan Walsh/AP

But would it be that much of a loss given how watered-down the surviving version of that government-run insurance plan has become? Sure, Majority Leader Harry Reid put a public option back in the consolidated Senate bill after Sen. Max Baucus of the Finance Committee had rejected it in a move to draw some Republican support.

Yet, after all that, the Congressional Budget Office figured only three or four million people would actually wind up buying coverage if the Senate's warmed-over public option became available. (Click here for a quick recap of the political history of the shrinking public option.)

So, consider the latest reported compromise that would add a federally contracted private alternative, up the income limit for Medicaid to 150 percent of the poverty level and allow folks as young as 55 to buy Medicare coverage.

Recall that the most liberal of all approaches to overhaul called for a move to single-payer system that some argued could be most easily accomplished by signing everyone up for Medicare. Nevermind that the financial strains on the trust fund for Medicare, as is, could lead to its bankruptcy by 2017.

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia one of the negotiators on the public option has long been a champion of a Medicare buy-in. But other senators, even from his own party, are skeptical. "I'm going to need to see an analysis" of the costs, said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, according to Fox News. "It's got many of the same problems that I had with previous versions of it in the public option...that then ties you to Medicare levels of reimbursement. States like mine, that's a big problem."

Rockefeller wasn't buying Conrad's argument. "I am really very tired of hearing about that from him," said Rockefeller, according to Politico. "It is always about North Dakota. It is never about any other parts of the country. That is what we are trying to do, the best thing for the country."

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