During this morning’s debate over Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) public plan amendment, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reminded senators that “if you go back and look at the debate on Medicare, the very same arguments were used, in the 60s. That we couldn’t have Medicare for seniors because it would destroy the private markets. It would destroy the private insurance system and that’s not what happened.” “Replay to today, same arguments again.”
Indeed, at one particularly contentious moment, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) challenged Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) claim that the public option would lead to single payer health care. The exchange flustered Grassley. He admitted that Medicare is part of the “social fabric” of America and praised the competition between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. He could not explain why younger Americans should be afforded the same choice of coverage. Watch it:
According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of Rockefeller’s amendment — which establishes a plan that reimburses providers at 5% above Medicare rates for the first two years — the public option would save the government an estimated $50 billion. Only eight million Americans would sign-up for the program, leaving the overwhelming majority of Americans to private coverage.
For Grassley, choice is a one-way street: he wants Americans to move from public to private coverage, but would deny Americans in private coverage the right to choose a public plan. Grassley fought to preserve access to Medicare Advantage and argued that Medicaid recipients should be able to enroll in private coverage. A shift from private to public coverage, however, is unacceptable.
During the debate, several senators reminded Grassley that under Rockefeller’s amendment, the public option would be self-sustaining and charge competitive rates after the first two years. “What are we afraid of,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) asked, “that Americans would like a plan that pays for itself and provides a good service?” As Schumer pointed out, Republicans are against government health care, but they have introduced numerous amendments to preserve Medicare. “That’s not fair, and it does not add up,” he said.