There has been a lot of talk the last few days about abandoning the now barely-alive "public option" in return for lowering the age of medicare eligibility to 55.
Let me say first (not that anyone cares) that I think the Democrats have been far too obliging in this whole process, with the result that any public option that makes it through the Senate at this point is likely to be little more than a fig leaf.
However, many of us, from the beginning, have advocated a real public option- simply making medicare available to anyone. This simple idea was so radical (by which I mean guaranteed to work) that it never got serious attention.
To allow people to enroll in medicare at 55 accomplishes something extremely important that no one has talked about: It detaches medicare from retirement. It establishes the great precedent that the government can offer health insurance to people as an alternative to our current system of privatized thievery. In the end, it may be a bigger step toward a rational health care system than anything else that Harry Reid and Obama could get through Congress, weighted down as they are with the execrable likes of Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu and Joe Lieberman.
I want to see Obama openly commit himself to the notion that this would only be the first step- that from now on, Democrats are going to commit themselves to further and further extending medicare until we are all eligible for it. If they do that, and if they mean it, this proposed medicare extension may be a tremendous outcome of the whole sick process we have witnessed for the last eight months.
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