Let's Begin Again

11/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I don't speak Parseltongue. I've had a hard time understanding the slithering talk-show hosts, the snake-oil salesmen of the wing-nut right and the Death Eaters at various town meetings. Sadly, we've already given up on universal health care and now it appears we may also lose the public option. So let me dream about a way we could have framed this discussion that might have led to a different outcome.

Here's a simple way to get to universal health care: With tax financing, expand Medicare age-eligibility annually in five-year increments, going down from sixty-five and up from newborns. The first year, sixty and older and five years and under would be covered, and so on, until, in six years you would have universal health care. This is not a "scary government takeover of your health care," it's simply the incremental expansion of an immensely popular program that works. People who want more gold-plated coverage can buy supplemental insurance. Gradually raise our taxes, eliminate premiums for basic insurance and cover us all. We could call it Americare. But that's based on the radical assumption that we actually do care about each other, including the least among us.

If we can't get there, as a fall back, why not simply make Medicare the public option? My husband Sam Brown is on Medicare: socialized medicine and the best insurance he's ever had. As others have said, who wouldn't buy into Medicare if that were one of the choices? But if there are those who don't want it, they can keep their own insurance.

And while we're dreaming, give the government the ability to negotiate drug prices and replace fee-for-service providers with the collaborative Mayo Clinic model of salaried doctors.

How's that for dreaming?

For an amusing explanation of one family's reason for thinking socialized medicine is good for family values, go to my son Nicholas Brown's link: