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  • To Keith Olbermann: Let’s All Take Credit for “Medicare Part E” and Get It Done Already

    I was listening to Countdown this evening listening to Keith Olbermann pat himself on the back for calling for a "rebranding" of the term "public option." Olbermann suggested calling the alternative to for-profit health insurance "Medicare Part E — ‘E’ for ‘Everyone.’ "

    That’s a great idea, but Keith is hardly the first to name the new plan. For that, I credit Thom Hartmann, who wrote on September 9, 2009:

    The President this morning admitted on national television that he lost control of the message with health care. It’s time to reboot – and use a very, very, very simple message so all Americans can understand it.

    Let’s use Medicare, which nearly every American understands. Just create “Medicare Part E” where the “E” represents “everybody.” Just let any citizen in the US buy into Medicare.

    It would be so easy. No need to reinvent the wheel with this so-called “public option” that’s a whole new program from the ground up. Medicare already exists. It works. Some people will like it, others won’t – just like the Post Office versus FedEx analogy the President is so comfortable with.

    Just pass a simple bill – it could probably be just a few lines, like when Medicare was expanded to include disabled people – that says that any American citizen can buy into the program at a rate to be set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it.

    Thus, Medicare Part E would be revenue neutral!

    To make it available to people of low income, Congress could raise the rates slightly for all currently non-eligible people (like me – under 65) to cover the cost of below-200%-of-poverty people. Revenue neutral again.

    This blows up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is. Those who scorn it can go with United Healthcare and it’s $100 million/year CEO. Those who like Medicare can buy into Part E. Simplicity itself.

    And there’s more. Hartmann’s analysis also appeared in CommonDreams.org.

    I don’t want to detract from Mr. Olbermann. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn thanked Keith publicly this evening on Countdown, saying he heard the term first from Mr. Olbermann, and at least one Blue Dog Democrat has thrown his support behind Medicare Part E. Medicare Part E would not be single payer. Since everyone is taking credit, I’ll pat myself on the back also for writing this on August 7, 2009. However, I only wrote that after I heard the term "Medicare Part E" first on Thom Hartmann’s radio program, at least a month before he wrote his analysis. And, to be honest, my call was for a single-payer system. “Medicare Part E” would be an opt-in insurance program, entirely optional. Do you like your for-profit health insurance company? Well, you’ll be allowed to keep it.

    Olbermann’s commentary is from his special commentary on October 7, nearly a month after Thom Hartmann:

    Once you said "Medicare For Everybody," there would be just as much to explain. If you were under 65 you’d be paying for it. You wouldn’t have to buy it. You wouldn’t have to change from whatever you have now. There are just as many caveats.

    Still, the intent of all this would be clearer. Much of the criticism of health care reform is coming from those who have or are about to get Medicare and, in confusion, in fear, in the kind of indescribable realization that we are far closer to the end than to the beginning, they are suddenly mortally afraid that health care reform will take it away from them. "Medicare For Everybody," might not be literally true, but instead of terrifying, it would be reassuring. And the explanations and the caveats would be listened to, and not shouted down, as anger and fear — fear, remember, of death – swell up inside.

    Thom Hartmann has been on Countdown before. Keith, invite him back and give him credit as well. After all, the best ideas always happen when no one cares who gets the credit.

    I’m cautiously optimistic that this will actually happen.

    Keith deserves credit for his incredible commentary. Thom Hartmann deserves credit as well. Let’s all take credit for the concept, the name, and make "Medicare Part E for Everyone" finally happen.