There are reports that a group of 10 conservative and progressive Democratic senators charged with finding a compromise to get health care past a GOP filibuster have tentatively come to an agreement. They would scrap the public option as we know it and replace it with two fixes.
One would be a government sponsored national insurance plan which would compete on the open market. This plan would be similar to the insurance offered to members of Congress. The other would be opening up the current social health insurance options, Medicare and Medicaid, to more people. Americans over the age of 55 could buy into Medicare early and pay to be covered by Medicare before their retirement age. Medicaid would be expanded to cover those at 150% of the poverty level.
The plan is being hailed as a potentially great deal which would give conservative Democrats political cover to vote for health care reform without going on record as supporting a public option controversial with non-liberal non-moderate voters. However, it expands two government programs that do not exactly have the greatest track records.
Medicare and Medicaid, while they do successfully insure the elderly, young, and disabled on both the state and federal level, often do not pay out the full cost of care to the hospitals with which they are contracted. In other words, public health facilities take a hit to their bottom line every time they treat one of these patients due to the discounted care they are required to provide. It is true that these 'losses' may be on paper only due to the ridiculously inflated cost for treatment and services pushed by the private health care industry, forcing this compromise on our health care providers will cause much more urgent growing pains than establishing a true, vigorous public option to ensure Americans health coverage.
The good news is it appears that should health care reform in any form pass the Senate, there are procedural plans to avoid yet another heated partisan battle in the conference committees between the two chambers of Congress, leaving open the possibility that a bill could be on President Barack Obama's desk to sign before the primaries begin early next year.