Senate Democrats looking to find a way to pass health care legislation have proposed a a Medicare “buy-in” proposal as part of the health care legislation. A major aspect of the proposal would be that individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 would be able to enroll in the medicare program. The Federation of American Hospitals opposes it as does the Mayo Clinic.
Senator Lamar Alexander (R - Tenn.) told reporters Republicans were not being allowed into the discussions on the Medicare proposal, but he gave his concerns.:
“Medicaid of course is a program for low income Americans where 50 percent of doctors won’t see new patients, and even that way, the proposals that we heard about would send big new costs to states causing big tax increases. Rumor this morning is they may have dropped the Medicare expansion. My question is why would they want to turn Medicare into Medicaid? If you allow up to thirty-four to thirty-six million new Americans to opt into Medicaid, you’re just going to add to the problem of people seeing doctors and getting into hospitals if you’re already in Medicare. You’re going to have a tremendous problem of access.”
Senator Alexander also read a statement from Mayo Clinic’s Executive Director Jeffrey Korsmo.:
“Expanding the Medicare system to persons 55-64 years old would ultimately hurt patients by accelerating the financial ruin of hospitals and doctors across the country. Mayo clinic alone has begun to limit the number of Medicare patients and their practices, and the growing number of other providers will. This is clearly an unsustainable model. One that would be disastrous for our nation’s hospitals, doctors, and eventually our patient’s have expanded to even more beneficiaries. It’s also clear that an expansion of the price control Medicare payment system will not control overall Medicare spending or curb costs.”
Mr. Alexander noted the Democrat plan to expand Medicare is just another road to a single payer health care system. He mentioned Rep. Anthony Weiner (D -NY), initially an advocate for a single payer health system, who now says:
“Extending this successful program to those between 55 and 64, a plan I proposed in July, would be the largest expansion of Medicare in 44 years and would perhaps get us on the path to a single payer model,” he said. “Medicare provides health care to all Americans over 65 and has an overhead of barely 1%. In a debate that hasn’t focused enough on how to genuinely contain costs and deliver affordable health care, this is one idea I like a lot.”
The House passed health care bill does not have a Medicare buy-in provision and the Senate proposal is one aspect from a group of ten moderate and liberal Democrats who are trying to secure enough votes to pass the entire health care bill.