In the 2010 movie Inception, an elite team of dream criminals have the ability to enter a person’s subconscious and implant an idea in their mind. Though lacking in sci-fi pretense and cutting edge special effect visuals, there’s evidence that US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had an idea planted in his head some weeks ago, an idea with important healthcare policy implications.
Whitehouse brought up a seemingly new (for him) healthcare talking point on Tuesday when he visited the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday to speak with the Senate Democratic Policy Caucus about ongoing Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the implications for Rhode Island. Rhode Island state Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence, North Providence) and state Senator Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston, Providence) hosted the event. Miller is the chair of the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. Thirteen other Rhode Island State Senators, all Democrats, attended the event.
During his opening remarks, Whitehouse talked about the public option as a proposal that might be amenable to some Republicans as a way to improve the ACA. The public option would create a government-run health insurance agency to compete with private health insurance companies and theoretically help keep prices down for consumers. This is a familiar Whitehouse talking point that has been heard many times over the last few months. But this most recent time, Whitehouse also suggested dropping the “Medicare eligibility in this country from 65 to 60, or to 55 or 50.”
“When you do that,” said Whitehouse, “you make a lot of people happy.”
You can hear Whitehouse at the 11 minute 23 second mark below.
The last time I heard Whitehouse speak on healthcare was two weeks ago, at the Met School in South Providence. At that time Whitehouse talked up his public option bill with no mention of lowering the age of Medicare eligibility.
However, during the question and answer period at the Met School, James Cowan, a retired medical doctor and advocate for a single-payer healthcare system, pushed back against the public option. Cowan said that there is a danger that the public option will become a dumping ground for high-risk, high-cost patients. The expense of a public option could become so great that opponents will argue against the feasibility of single-payer. Instead, suggested Cowan, we should be lowering the age of Medicare coverage over time, from 65 to 55 and so on, until everyone is covered.
Two weeks later, Whitehouse is publicly endorsing this proposal.
You can watch the exchange between Whitehouse and Cowan here: