Rebranding the Public Option as Medicare Part E
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 07:17:47 PM EDT
The Hill reports on developments in the House of Representatives:
Say hello to "Medicare Part E" -- as in, "Medicare for Everyone."
House Democrats are looking at re-branding the public health insurance option as Medicare, an established government healthcare program that is better known than the public option.
This plan is intriguing, but House Democrats would be well served to consider both the positives and the negatives associated with it.
Medicare is a widely popular program -- a Bloomberg poll from September of this year found that a whopping 79 percent of the country held a favorable opinion towards the program while just 16 percent viewed it unfavorably. If Americans believed what they were getting with healthcare reform was the choice of Medicare, which is understood and popular, instead of the choice of a public option, which is less understood and less popular (though by no means unpopular), they might be more willing to support the final legislation.
That said, the public option does not allow all Americans to buy into the existing Medicare program, at least not how it is currently devised. Instead, the public option allows those who cannot afford insurance the choice of a public alternative to private insurance companies. The difference isn't huge, but it is important. If all Americans believe that they are going to have this choice but then come to find out down the road that the choice is limited to only those who cannot afford private insurance -- a significant minority of the country, but still a minority -- they might not be too pleased.
Nevertheless, it's an interesting proposition.