For many years Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned for what he termed “Medicare for All.” But virtually no one in Congress supported his quest.
Now, in the run-up to the 2020 Democratic Presidential primary, about half his twenty-something rivals now second his proposal. Still, it has no chance of being passed before January 2021 when a new Congress, and hopefully, a new president, take office.
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Indeed, even if Sanders, or one of his Democratic rivals who has endorsed Medicare for All were elected, enacting this program would still be an uphill battle. So let me suggest Medicare for More as a politically feasible compromise.
The biggest – and perhaps most reasonable – objection to adopting Medicare for All is its cost. Although Sanders maintains that it will essentially pay for itself – and I happen to agree – he has not made a very persuasive case.
In addition, many Americans declare that they are very satisfied with their current health insurance plans. So even if most of us were persuaded that Medicare for All were better for our nation because it would deliver healthcare much more efficiently, perhaps most Americans might still continue to oppose it.
As President Lyndon Johnson – a man who clearly knew how to count Congressional votes – used to say, “Politics is the art of the possible.” And passing legislation authorizing Medicare for More would be a lot more possible than Medicare for All.
What I’m proposing is nothing new: the idea of Medicare expansion has been batted around for years. But now it’s politically possible.
Let’s offer to expand Medicare to every American between the ages of 60 to 65. After all, there are millions of people in this age group who would jump at the chance to enroll.
But how would we pay for this expansion? It’s simple: We would let these folks buy into the plan.
But not everyone could afford to do so. So we would have two alternatives. We could either accept just those who could afford the buy-in, or else we could charge those who could not on a sliding scale.
How would we pay for the five or ten billion dollars a year in subsidies? Perhaps by raising the top rate of the federal income tax by one percent – or the gasoline tax by two or three cents a gallon.
If lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare to 60 proves popular, then there might be even less opposition to bringing it down to 55, and maybe still lower in future years. And who knows? Perhaps by the end of the next decade, Medicare for More will have become Medicare for All.