Wednesday, October 28, 2009

House Dems consider re-branding public option as Medicare Part E

Who can forget the irate protestors at town hall meetings last summer loudly proclaiming “keep your government hands off my Medicare”? In an effort to capitalize on the popularity of the Medicare program and possibly provide some “political cover” for the public option, House Democrats are considering renaming the public option as “Medicare Part E” that is, Medicare for Everyone.

Though the public option has been steadily gaining in popularity among the American public in recent months, there’s a sense that many people don’t really understand the public option concept. Medicare itself is wildly popular and relatively well-understood by the general public. In face, Medicare’s approval rating is 79 percent, a figure that most American politicians would give their eyeteeth for. Maybe some of that popularity would rub off on the public option.

In Capitol Hill jargon, the plan would be called the “robust option” or Medicare Plus 5, which would tie provider reimbursement rates to Medicare, with an additional five percent. At this point, it’s not certain how this plan would operate. According to The Hill, “some want to expand Medicare itself to uninsured people under 65. Others want to simply rename what is now called the public health insurance option.”

Shakespeare observed “What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” so what would a name change really accomplish? In this instance, a name change might not mean all that much, though, it could it might provide some political cover. Some believe, for instance, that “the strategy could benefit Democrats struggling to bridge the gap between liberals in their party, who want the public option, and centrists, who are worried it would drive private insurers out of business.”

After all, who could possibly oppose Medicare, without incurring the wrath of seniors everywhere? For the moment at least, momentum seems to be building for a public option and a name change could help that process along. That could be what House Democrats are banking on.


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