Medicare buy-in on the table

MEDICARE BUY-IN ON THE TABLE…. The story of the day is not Ben Nelson introducing a Senate version of the Stupak language — the smart money is on it failing (I’d put the over/under at 43) — but rather a “sweetener” for the left, to make another public option compromise more palatable.

Sam Stein, Ezra Klein, and Brian Beutler are all reporting the same thing: an expansion of Medicare eligibility is on the table.

Senate Democrats are discussing the idea of expanding Medicare by lowering the age at which the elderly could enter the government-run insurance program, Democratic sources on the Hill tell the Huffington Post.

The proposal would lower the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 55, though an age limit of 60 has also been suggested. Crucial details — such as the timing of the implementation of such a reform — were not provided due to the sensitivity and ongoing nature of the deliberations. A high-ranking Democratic source off the Hill confirmed that such discussions are taking place.

Lowering the floor for Medicare is one of several ideas being discussed as a way to pacify progressives upset over the potential elimination of a public option for insurance coverage, one of the sources added.

Negotiations are, of course, still very much in flux, and all kinds of details would have to be worked out — most notably, financing — but in general, this will be appealing to many progressive lawmakers. After all, Medicare is a socialized, single-payer system that Americans know, love, and trust. Indeed, the starting point for many liberals is “Medicare for all.” This, obviously, doesn’t go nearly that far, but expanding eligibility brings that many more Americans into the system.

Ezra also helped connect this to the larger context of the talks: “The broader point is that the public option compromise is increasingly becoming a health-care reform compromise, and the focus is returning, usefully, to the goals of the bill. That’s good for both moderates and liberals, as everyone who votes for this bill has a stake in seeing it work, and the intense attention to the increasingly weakened public option had begun to distract from the need to improve other elements of the legislation.”