Public Option Opponent Mike Ross Proposes Opening Medicare To More Americans

The Hill is reporting that Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) — who led a group of seven centrist Blue Dogs who objected to a public option that reimbursed providers based on Medicare rates — is floating a proposal to open-up Medicare to Americans under 65, “but at a reimbursement rate much greater than current Medicare rates”:

I — speaking only on behalf of myself — suggested one possible idea could be that instead of creating an entirely new government bureaucracy to administer a public option, Medicare could be offered as a choice to compete alongside private insurers for those Americans eligible to enter the national health insurance exchange, but at a reimbursement rate much greater than current Medicare rates.

The last sentence is key: reimbursing providers who treat the new enrollees at market rates satisfies the provider community and conservative politicians from rural states who argue that their hospitals would close if they were reimbursed at Medicare rates. This scheme preserves the integrity of a single national program and takes advantage of Medicare’s administrative efficiencies to lower costs and spearhead delivery reforms. Still, Ross’ solution will likely save less money than a robust public option that uses Medicare-like rates and leverage.

After cutting a deal with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to increase the public option’s reimbursement rates in August, Ross announced last month that “he will vote against health care legislation if it includes a public option.” “I have been skeptical about the public health insurance option from the beginning and used August to get feedback from you, my constituents,” Ross wrote in a newsletter to constituents. “An overwhelming number of you oppose a government-run health insurance option and it is your feedback that has led me to oppose the public option as well.”