THE BLOG
12/03/2013 01:29 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2014

Now, Democrats Should Push a Voluntary 'Buy-Into-Medicare' Amendment to Obamacare

The website is now functioning, and its birth trauma will be largely forgotten as an issue come springtime.

Republicans, however, will focus heavily on the issue of cost to a small group of people whose premiums will have increased because, among other things, there are no longer annual or lifetime caps or exclusions for pre-existing illnesses permitted.

The real value of an insurance policy is never recognized until one needs it. Hence, people may be "happy" with an insurance policy that costs $50/month that covers almost nothing, so long as they do not need coverage. And, no one knows when that car accident or serious illness may strike them or their children.

Although any health care economist would say that the insurance changes are all good, and many consumers have recognized that no longer being "one illness away from bankruptcy" is worth the extra costs, the issue is ripe for demagoguery.

There are no better faux demagogues than the Republicans. Even the public has begun to notice that Republicans' newly-discovered "concern" that citizens may not get their health coverage in time is nothing but political opportunism at its most crass, rooting for failure so people do not get health care.

But, Democrats have a perfect opportunity to improve peoples' health care choices, while calling the Republicans' bluff at the same time: introduce a voluntary, "you can buy into Medicare", alternative. This was one version of what was called "the public option", but that is a worn term that has little emotive content.

Not only introduce it, fight for it.

The fight will put Republican hypocrisy in the glare of klieg lights. It will surface, finally, that Republican's 40+ repeals of the Affordable Care Act would have made Medicare become insolvent in 2015, whereas today it's solvency is projected through 2026.

Democrats are perennially paralyzed by concern about what Republicans might say, so let us consider those arguments.

"This shows that Obamacare does not work". Republicans are going to argue that government works better than the free market? That would be "interesting".

Or, they will argue that Obamacare is not a free market, but rather too much regulation. But, we already see that the American people have realized that Republicans have no alternatives. The stunt of repealing Obamacare 40+ times without ever offering an alternative has come back to bite them---the American people do not buy it.

Moreover, so what? Republicans claim to care deeply about citizens' health care coverage. Let us take them at their word. They also were nearly apoplectic that the government was "interfering" with their Medicare. So, if they like Medicare so much, and have such a deep concern over citizens' health care coverage, why would they not let everyone have the Medicare they love so much if they wish?

Rather than promoting "Medicare-for-all" as the single solution to health insurance in the United States, Democrats are now perfectly poised to offer buying into Medicare as an alternative "on the exchange."

As any foreigner visiting the United States will observe, Americans love choices. In the Washington State healthcare exchange, there are 46 alternative plans, more than the 31 flavors of ice cream Baskin-Robbins had when it launched.

Adding the option of buying into Medicare would be the 47th, Mitt Romney's favorite number.