Urgently seeking a deal on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, Democratic senators are considering temporarily opening the Medicare rolls to uninsured middle-aged people able to purchase the coverage.
The Medicare “buy-in” for people 55 to 64 would be available until government subsidies start flowing in 2014 to new health insurance markets designed for people who now have trouble getting and keeping affordable coverage.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said the idea is on the table as part of an emerging compromise under which liberals would back away from their demand for a new government health insurance plan to compete with private carriers. Instead of a so-called public plan, the compromise envisions private insurers operating under the auspices of the government agency that now manages the federal employee health plan — the same one that covers members of Congress.
The Democratic negotiators — five liberals and five moderates — are under pressure to reach a deal by Tuesday. The version now in the bill — a government-run plan that states could opt out of — is unacceptable to a handful of moderates whose votes Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., needs to pass a bill embodying Obama’s signature issue.
A companion idea also under discussion — expanding the Medicaid program to cover more low-income people — appears to have run into opposition from moderates.