Alan Grayson came to the House Floor today to introduce the Public Option Act, which would allow all Americans to buy into Medicare at cost. The bill is 4 pages long, and calls for an unsubsidized option for any American to choose Medicare over private insurers.
The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish enrollment periods, coverage guidelines, and premiums for the program. Because premiums would be equal to cost, the program would pay for itself.
“The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population. That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’ It is a waste of a very valuable resource and it is not fair. This idea is simple, it makes sense, and it deserves an up-or-down vote,” Congressman Grayson said.
I have doubts that this bill will get to a vote anytime soon, but it gives me hope that we'll move in the direction of a Medicare expansion, and it certainly offers a solid goal for progressives to embrace going forward. I have always believed this is the right public option, rather than creating a brand new bureaucracy. However, the Medicare infrastructure needs some work before the doors can be thrown open to everyone. Those remodels are already in the Senate bill, in the form of innovation, streamlining, electronic health records and outcomes-based medicine. The Medicare reforms are robust, meaningful, and will make Medicare the most viable public option of all.
More significantly, Grayson's introduction of this bill right now invites Dennis Kucinich to stand down on his opposition to the Senate bill. Grayson isn't introducing this bill as a symbolic gesture. There's no question that the public option, as debated over the past year, has traction and is popular, especially when framed as a Medicare buy-in. By making it a separate initiative, Grayson unbundles it from the Senate bill and gives both an opportunity to pass.
Whether it passes this year or not, it's a magnificent and savvy political move on Grayson's part. Let's hope Kucinich picks up the cue, moves the ball down the field instead of picking up the goalposts and heading home.