Grayson Pushes Public Option On His Own Terms

Produced by HuffPost's Citizen Reporting Team

Congressman Alan Grayson (D) Fla. has been waging his own war on the health insurance industry by proposing a straightforward public option plan through the existing Medicare network. But in contrast to the 2000+ page proposal endorsed by the president, Grayson's bill is a robust 4 pages.

Grayson proposes to extend Medicare benefits to anyone from birth to age 64 with a simple 'buy-in.' In a recent interview, Grayson was emphatic in how this plan compares to Obama's, as well as the single-payer plan recommended by the group Physicians for A National Health Plan.

"The president's plan is lacking a public option, and this is a public option. This would be a wonderful supplement to the president's plan, but it also stands on its own," he said.

In fact, the short title of H.R. 4789 is listed as the "Public Option Act," or the "Medicare You Can Buy Into Act." According to the congressman, the medicare buy-in will generate the same cost savings of any large group using already existing Medicare networks of providers and hospitals. Consequently, this introduces an element of competition in a market saturated by a handful of private insurers who now have close to a de facto monopoly.

"This will enormously help people who live in areas of the country where only one or two private insurance companies have 80% of the market or more," said Grayson. "It improves on the president's plan by taking existing valuable resources in the Medicare provider network and opening it up to 6/8 of the population that cannot benefit from it."

Grayson also points out that this bill forbids any discrimination based on preexisting conditions or gender differences, as exists now in our for profit system. The only distinction in price would be based on 6 age cohorts, ranging from birth to age 64, which reflects the reality of medical care provision costs.

The practice of policy rescission is a particularly sore point to Grayson and would be illegal. Grayson explained that far too many people discover this rescission practice after its too late.

"The problem with private health insurance is that you can get all the care you need, providing you don't need it," said Grayson.

Grayson also attributes this practice to the profit motive and asserts that private insurers have a 'conflict of interest,' which makes them a poor choice for the administration of medical care.

As for the comparison to single payer systems, Grayson explained that the medicare buy-in provides the same services, it is merely the method of payment which differs.

When asked if he would back a bill establishing the right of individual states to create their own single-payer state-wide system, Grayson explained that the Senate bill already provides for this tool.

When asked if he would back an alternative plan to cut spending in areas such as defense and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to transfer those monies to domestic needs such as a single-payer system, Grayson's response was direct:

"I've said a million times that I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have to end. We have to take care of ourselves, and when I say we have to take care of ourselves, I meant that our health care, education, roads, bridges, our human needs. I'm not saying that we should end the war for the purpose of enacting single-payer. I think we should end the war for the purpose of eliminating the headlock that the military-industrial-complex has on America and meeting our human needs."