WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Tuesday denied having reversed his position on the Medicare buy-in compromise. The provision has been put forth in lieu of the public option, and allows individuals aged 55 to 64 the opportunity to part-take in Medicare.
“I didn’t change my mind on the Medicare buy-in,” Lieberman said in a televised press conference.
However, Lieberman has championed the exact provision on a number of occasions — including as recently as three months ago. A video recently uncovered by The Plum Line‘s Greg Sargent features Lieberman specifically endorsing it.
“My proposals were to basically expand the existing successful public health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid,” Lieberman said on September 8. “When it came to Medicare I was very focused on a group — post 50, maybe more like post 55. People who have retired early, or unfortunately have been laid off early, who lose their health insurance and they’re too young to qualify for Medicare.”
“What I was proposing was that they have an option to buy into Medicare early and again on the premise that that would be less expensive than the enormous cost,” he said. “If you’re 55 or 60 and you’re without health insurance and you go in to try to buy it, because you’re older … you’re rated as a risk so you pay a lot of money.”
Lieberman also endorsed the idea in 2000, when the expansion of Medicare specifically to those between 55 and 65 was a plank in the Gore-Lieberman campaign. He personally defended it in an interview that year with the Bangor Daily:
He said during the interview that the fastest growing group of uninsured are those 55 to 65. For that reason, the ticket proposes an expansion of Medicare to allow those and older to buy into the public program. There would still be a buy-in price but it would be less than buying private insurance, he said.
The Medicare buy-in plan was recently proposed by the Democratic leadership in part due to Lieberman’s staunch opposition to the public option. But this compromise has also failed to win his support.
“I’m ready to vote for health care reform,” Lieberman said Tuesday, while echoing the claims of many Republicans that an expansion of government-provided insurance would lead to a single-payer system.
“In the long term the danger will be the federal government will be pressured to take this over,” he said, adding that he supports other components of the bill such as subsidies for those who can’t afford insurance.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who stood by Lieberman during the conference, praised him after he answered questions. “I am grateful for the work that Senator Lieberman has done,” she said. “I believe that his principle stands have improved the bill.”
Collins also said she believes it’s her job to make improvements to the health care bill, even if she won’t vote for it.
This video is from MSNBC, broadcast Dec. 15, 2009.
–David Edwards contributed to this report