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Grayson urges vote on new Medicare buy-in bill

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 11:07 EDT
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Progressive firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) isn’t giving up on offering Americans a public option.

The congressman on Tuesday introduced the four-page H.R. 4789 “Public Option Act,” also called the “Medicare You Can Buy Into Act,” would allow all legal American residents under 65 to enroll in Medicare by paying a fee. He made a passionate call for a vote on the floor of the House.

“The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population,” Grayson said. “That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’  It is a waste of a very valuable resource and it is not fair.  This idea is simple, it makes sense, and it deserves an up-or-down vote.”

The inclusion of a public option in the larger Democratic health care legislation has been a topic of immense debate. The Senate dropped the proposal in December and the final package is unlikely to include it. A Medicare buy-in option was also briefly considered but didn’t survive.

The Florida freshman described the “adversarial relationship” he had with his insurance company when his bills skyrocketed during the birth of his twins, who were born early and spent months in the hospital. He said many Americans face similar problems, and that “every penny they spent on my care was a penny less for their profits.”

“America needs a public option,” he declared, lamenting the lack of competition in the private insurance industry. “That’s why I’ve introduced this bill.”

Seeking to clear up any doubts about the proposal, Grayson noted that it’s “not a plan for subsidies” as “everyone would have to pay their own costs.”

He labeled insurance companies “the real death panels in this country” due to their widely-documented practices of denying care due to people with pre-existing conditions and rescinding coverage from sick patients.

The idea of expanding public health insurance has been highly controversial in Congress, with Republicans offering unanimous opposition and conservative Democrats reluctant to support it.

“I say to those people on the other side of the aisle, if you don’t want to buy into the public option, but don’t prevent me and my family and the ones who I love from doing the same,” Grayson said. “Let us have our alternative.”

The video is Grayson’s speech on the House floor Tuesday, uploaded to YouTube.

 
 
 
 
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