New Democratic public option "compromise": Hey, let's expand Medicare and Medicaid

Why stop there? If we’re going to expand “social safety nets” that are already bankrupting the country, we might as well go into the gutter twice as fast and expand social security too.

Via Ace:

Senate Democratic liberals are seeking expansion of two large federal programs, Medicare and Medicaid, in exchange for dropping a government-sold insurance option from health care legislation sought by President Barack Obama, several lawmakers said Monday.

Under the potential trade-off with party moderates, near-retirees beginning at age 55 or 60 who lack affordable insurance would be permitted to purchase coverage under Medicare, which generally provides medical care beginning at 65. Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, would be open to all comers under 300 percent of poverty, or slightly over $66,000 for a family of four

The closed-door talks have proceeded while Republicans on the Senate floor have mounted a series of politically charged challenges to the health care bill. Whatever the long-term political impact, they so far they have failed to win any major changes.

The latest such maneuver came when the Senate rejected an attempt by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., to prevent Medicare from “being raided” to pay for health care. The vote was 43-56. The bill calls for cuts totaling $460 billion over a decade from projected Medicare spending, much of which would be used to provide subsidies to help lower and middle-income Americans purchase health care.

Nutroots activists are naturally horrified that the “compromise” won’t realize their ruinous dream of making everyone eligible for Medicare. This is, in theory, preferable to the public option insofar as it’s circumscribed by age, but I wonder if it won’t end up being even harder to get rid of, and more politically corrosive, than an unlimited public plan would. By drawing generational lines, 55+ voters may be inclined to vote to protect Medicare even if they don’t use the program themselves, either to provide a safety net for their contemporaries or because, given the age limit, they feel their eligibility is a right “earned” by age that shouldn’t be forfeited. With a public plan that lacks age limits, that generational tribalism and sense of vested interest is lost and the vote to repeal or revise the program is more straightforward between those who use the program (or think they might want to) and those who don’t.

Meanwhile, the Standard is reporting tonight that the second Louisiana Purchase of the last few weeks has evidently bought Landrieu’s vote against Nelson’s anti-abortion amendment. Exit question: What did Reid have to promise her this time?