Liberals May Trade Public Option For Expansion Of Medicare, Medicaid

In exchange for accepting a proposed compromise on a public option in the health bill, liberal Democratic Senators are hoping to win expansions of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, The New York Times reports. "One of the changes being pushed by the liberals would lower the age of eligibility for Medicare to 55, from 65. Another would expand Medicaid to cover people with incomes up to 150 percent of the poverty level." The Medicaid change would represent a 17 percent increase compared with what the current bill calls for (Pear and Herszenhorn, 12/7).

The Wall Street Journal: The idea under consideration by negotiators would allow people older than 55 "to buy insurance coverage at subsidized rates under Medicare, though the subsidies wouldn't be as great as those for people 65 and over, said congressional aides and lawmakers" (Hitt and Adamy, 12/8).

CongressDaily: "Most senators reserved judgment on the Medicare buy-in until they receive numbers back from CBO, but Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said Monday he has concerns that the proposal will expand the number of people whose insurance coverage pays low Medicare rates. Conrad brought the concern up earlier as well when senators were weighing a public option based on Medicare rates, claiming hospitals in his state would not survive."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a liberal who began pushing to expand Medicare in 2001, lashed back, saying, "I'm really very tired of hearing about that from him, and it's always about North Dakota and it's never about any other part of the country and I thought, you know, that's what we were trying to do. We're trying to do the best thing for the country as a whole" (Edney and Friedman, 12/8).

Related earlier story from KHN: Health Reform Controversy: Opening Medicare to People Under 65 (Appleby, 5/4)

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