Sunday, December 1, 2013

Alan Grayson Offers a Progressive Fix for the ACA: Medicare Buy-In

Over the past month, with the website malfunctioning and the bad press around plan cancellations, we've seen Democrats run scared as they so often do.

Four Democrats have co-sponsored Republican Rep. Fred Upton's bill: John Barrow (GA-12), Mike McIntyre (NC-07), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), and Kysrten Sinema (AZ-09).

A group of mostly red/purple state senators (many of whom are up for re-election) have jumped on another "fix" bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA): Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Pryor (AR), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Jeff Merkley (OR), and Tom Udall (NM).
Neither improves the bill, and the former is trying to undermine it.

I've been waiting to hear progressive Democrats start offering progressive "fixes" to the Affordable Care Act because if they don't, they effectively concede the terms of debate over the ACA to the Republicans. The "keep it, but improve it" line resonates well with the public.

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been a reliable voice for single payer and has spoken on the issue numerous times over the past month. However, I haven't heard much in the way of "progressive fixes" from other progressive legislators.

I was happy to see Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09) change that. Back in February, Grayson introduced the Medicare You Can Buy Into Act:
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) has introduced his first piece of legislation in the 113th Congress, the Medicare You Can Buy Into Act (H.R. 500). The bill would allow any legal resident of the United States to buy into Medicare at cost.

At only four pages long, H.R. 500 is simple: allow Americans to enroll in Medicare, where they would be eligible for coverage under Parts A and B, as well as Part D’s prescription drug access. Because premiums would be equal to cost, the program would pay for itself.

“In many states, a few private insurance companies control the market, restricting consumer choice and driving up the cost of care.  Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act attempts to address this problem, more could be done,” Grayson explained. “Why should the insurance companies get all of the options, while we get none? The people deserve a choice. The people deserve a public option. Opening up the Medicare system increases competition and provides more options to consumers.”
Rep. Carol Shea Porter (NH-01) joined as a co-sponsor in May. Grayson sent out an email this morning indicating that he plans to renew efforts to bring attention to this bill:
Dear America: I hate to say "I told you so." But I told you so.

I said, waaaaaaay back in 2010, that anyone who wants Medicare coverage should be able to buy it. I was right. And I'm still right.

If you agree, then congratulations -- you're right, too.

Think about it: Has anyone ever complained about being canceled by Medicare? No.

Has anyone ever complained that the Medicare website crashed? No.

Has anyone ever complained that Medicare refused him coverage? No.

Has anyone ever complained that Medicare cut him off when his care got too expensive? No.
Has anyone ever whined that Medicare is socialism? Well, yes. In 1961, Ronald Reagan said that Medicare would bring on a socialist dictatorship. As if.

The real problem that we have is not that some website doesn't work. The real problem is not that some insurance companies are canceling some policies - when has that ever not happened?

Here are the real problems:

    A lot of Americans can't afford health insurance.

    In many areas of the country, the health insurance companies and the hospitals are monopolies or duopolies, and they control the market.

    The health insurance companies charge as much as they can, they provide as little care as they can get away with, and they call the difference "profit." They have a conflict of interest with you. They make more money by denying you the care that you need to stay healthy, or even alive.

But there is a solution to these problems. In fact, some Americans have an excellent healthcare system, which is overwhelmingly popular. It provides care from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, and from sea to shining sea. It's cheap and efficient - 97% of the cost goes directly into providing care. We've invested billions of dollars to make it comprehensive and universal. You may have heard of this healthcare system -- it's called "Medicare."

And, weirdly, we open it only to seniors and the disabled. It's as if we said that the minimum age to drive on interstate highways is 65 years old. It's as if we said that only seniors could go to public school.

That's just nuts.

What would it cost for everyone else? I'm glad you asked. According to the experts, for full coverage, including the prescription drug benefit, Medicare would cost barely $100 a month for children, and less than $500 a month for people in their sixties. Which is much less than my coverage costs -- and, I would venture to say, probably yours, too (unless you're on it already).

Which is why, back in 2010, I introduced a simple, four-page bill, the 'Medicare You Can Buy Into Act'. The bill allows Americans to buy into Medicare at cost. If you want Medicare, and you pay for it, you've got it. Period. End of story.

I signed up more than 80 co-sponsors in the House, in two weeks.

Poll after poll found that a "public option" like this was very popular with the public, too. Politifact did a survey of surveys, and found that in 28 polls, the average result was 57 percent in favor, and 38 percent against - despite massive negative propaganda spewed out by the Chamber of Commerce.

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act passed without a Medicare buy-in, or any public option. King Lieberman (D-Aetna) vetoed it. That kept private insurance companies exclusively in charge of health coverage for people under 65. We can all see how well that's turned out. These large and profitable corporations have cancelled policies and raised rates at will. They are demanding the power to continue to discriminate against women, to deny coverage to people with existing illnesses, and to pull the plug - literally - on anyone whose coverage becomes too expensive.

And is it really their fault? "No one can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13.) We are asking the health insurance companies to serve two masters: patients, and profit. They can't do it. No one can.

But the health insurance companies have demonstrated that they are good at one thing - fooling voters. They spent $2 million against me in 2010 in the Great Democratic Apocalypse, and they got rid of me.

Temporarily. And now, I'm back.

So after I won reelection last year, one of the first bills that I introduced was that same old four-page bill, the 'Medicare You Can Buy Into Act' (H.R. 500). Because we need it. Me and you. We need it.

If we open up Medicare to everyone who can pay for it, private insurance premiums will drop, because health insurance companies with local monopolies will face much-needed competition. And, to compete, those companies will have to offer better policies -- policies with more comprehensive coverage, with a broader network, and better service.
Now that's what I call true health care reform. That's what I'm talking about.

We want a public option. We need a public option. And that public option already exists - we just need to open it up, to all Americans.

Here is our cheer: "I want Medicare. You want Medicare. We all want Medicare."

Let's make it happen. Sign the petition today:

It is never too late to do the right thing.

L'chaim - To Life,

Rep. Alan Grayson

"The greatest wealth is health." - Virgil
You can sign his "We Want Medicare" petition here
You can also encourage your representatives to co-sponor his bill.

When he first introduced the bill in 2010, he garnered 82 co-sponsors.

57 of those co-sponsors are still in the House:

Corinne Brown (FL-05)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Andre Carson (IN-07)
Kathy Castor (FL-14)
Judy Chu (CA-27)
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Lacy Clay (MO-01)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Eliot Engel (NY-16)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Al Green (TX-09)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
Eddie Johnson (TX-30)
Hank Johnson (GA-04)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)
Grace Napolitano (CA-32)
Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Charlie Rangel (NY-13)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Loretta Sanchez (CA-46)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Nydia Velazquez (NY-07)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Pete Welch (VT-AL)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
Gregorio Sablan (Northern Marian Islands)

Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Mazie Hirono (HI), who were both co-sponsors, are now in the Senate, and Baldwin sits on the HELP Committee. They deserve a call, too, as do their colleagues.

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