Covering 30 Million Americans
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 12:11:05 PM EST
That's what the bill being debated in the Senate would do. It wouldn't have a public option, and it apparently wouldn't enable those age 55 and older to buy-in to the Medicare program.
To provide some context, though, it's worth noting what wasn't on the table coming into the Senate debate: A robust public option, the type of program that would have a significant impact on the overall healthcare market. The leadership in the House of Representatives tried to pass a robust public option, one tied to the rates set by Medicare, but it just couldn't find the votes.
Unable to get a robust public option through the House, the Senate looked to other opportunities, including Medicare buy-in and a non-robust public option. The latter, as scored by the CBO, would enroll only 3 or 4 million people -- not too dissimilar from the 6 million number the CBO projected would enroll in a similar non-robust public option in the House. As designed by either the House or the Senate, such non-robust public options would have higher premiums than private plans available under the exchange.
So the question stands, is it better to kill a bill that would provide 30 million Americans with health insurance (in addition to the 4.1 million American children already extended coverage under the expanded SCHIP legislation passed through the Congress and signed into law by President Obama earlier this year) for lack of a non-robust public option, the premiums of which are projected to be higher than in private plans, or to back a bill without either a non-robust public option or a Medicare buy-in provision? Frankly, I'm not sure I ultimately come down the same as Howard Dean on this one, though I'm still hoping to learn more.