BLUE DOG SUGGESTS OPENING UP MEDICARE ELIGIBILITY…. When we last heard from Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dog caucus’ point-man on health care policy, he was moving sharply to the right. He announced last month that he would oppose any legislation with a public option — despite already having voted in support of a public option in committee, and having defended the idea two weeks prior.

Today, The Hill reports that Ross has taken another unexpected turn.

Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross, who made headlines by rejecting a compromise he’d negotiated on a public health insurance option, has suggested to Democratic leaders that the government-run Medicare program be opened to all Americans.

Ross (D-Ark.) has made the suggestion in meetings with House Democratic leaders and brought the idea to the closed-door House Democratic Caucus meeting Thursday.

“I — speaking only on behalf of myself — suggested one possible idea could be that instead of creating an entirely new government bureaucracy to administer a public option, Medicare could be offered as a choice to compete alongside private insurers for those Americans eligible to enter the national health insurance exchange, but at a reimbursement rate much greater than current Medicare rates,” Ross said in a statement to The Hill.

If the quote hadn’t come in a statement, I would have assumed that The Hill had made a mistake. Because, really, this doesn’t make sense for Ross.

He’s a conservative Dem. He’s firmly opposed to letting a public plan compete against private insurers. Just five weeks ago, Ross said, “[I]f House leadership presents a final bill that contains a government-run public option, I will oppose it.”

And yet, now Mike Ross is open to letting Medicare compete against private plans? He’s against existing Democratic proposals, because he perceives them as too liberal, but Ross is publicly suggesting letting everyone have access to a national socialized medicine program?

He added that he hadn’t specifically endorsed this as a policy proposal, but then again, if Ross were dead-set against the idea, he wouldn’t have suggested it to congressional leaders in the first place.

The only thing I can think of is this is Ross’ way of killing health care reform — tell Democratic leaders to give up on everything they’ve worked all year on, and start working on something they’ll like even more (universal Medicare eligibility). Then, when that starts working its way through Congress, Ross and Blue Dogs would decide it’s too liberal and rally against it, thus ensuring that the status quo is protected.

If that’s not what’s going on here, I’m at a loss. The same Blue Dog opposes a public option and then suggest opening up Medicare to all. Huh?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.