Blue Dog suggests offering Medicare to all uninsured

Rep. Mike Ross doesn't like the public option -- so why is he proposing something very much like it?


Alex Koppelman
October 16, 2009 9:15PM (UTC)

Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., is a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a conservative group within the larger party. As such, he -- along with the rest of the Blue Dogs -- has been pretty hesitant about joining up with other Democrats' healthcare reform proposals, especially the public option. But he seems to be taking a more liberal turn of late, and some progressives are wondering why.

"I — speaking only on behalf of myself — suggested one possible idea could be that instead of creating an entirely new government bureaucracy to administer a public option, Medicare could be offered as a choice to compete alongside private insurers for those Americans eligible to enter the national health insurance exchange, but at a reimbursement rate much greater than current Medicare rates," Ross said in a statement given to the Hill. He's reportedly been working behind the scenes, suggesting that idea in meetings with his fellow House Democrats this week.

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The odd thing about this is that it's quite a liberal thing for Ross to be suggesting, though he's saying that he doesn't actually endorse the idea, at least not yet. There may be a parochial thing going on, as the Blue Dogs tend to represent rural areas, and their constituents, especially their donors, would benefit from an increase in Medicare rates. But a couple of liberals see something else at work.

"The only thing I can think of is this is Ross' way of killing health care reform -- tell Democratic leaders to give up on everything they've worked all year on, and start working on something they'll like even more [universal Medicare eligibility]," Steve Benen said of Ross' actions. "Then, when that starts working its way through Congress, Ross and Blue Dogs would decide it's too liberal and rally against it, thus ensuring that the status quo is protected."

At Firedoglake, John Walker wrote: "The final bill should be on the House floor within a week or two, now is not the time to brainstorm ideas that you’re not even sure you can support. Suggesting alternatives that can’t even secure your own vote is a waste of everyone’s time."


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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