President Obama has signaled to the leaders of Congress that they should do what it takes to close the deal with moderate Senators on health care reform. Already this has meant throwing the public option overboard. A group of ten senators – five liberals and five moderates – crafted a compromise last week that ditched the public option but gave liberals some satisfaction by permitting a buy-in to Medicare for those over 55 who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The buy-in, too, appears to be on the chopping block now.
The President is right to push for a deal. The public option always has enjoyed more comment and concern than it deserved, a useful tool to drive down costs but not really a meaningful step towards a single-payer plan. The Medicare buy-in, on the other hand, is really a good idea. Democrats should let is go to pass the current bill, and then immediately begin campaigning on “Medicare for All.” Call it a reform of the reform. Make it a central part of their campaign for next year’s midterms. But, don’t let it get in the way of a deal now.