Following a major-league flip-flop by moderate-Democrat-turned-conservative-Independent Joseph Lieberman, Senate Democrats have agreed to drop a compromise provision in the health-care plan that would allow 55- to 64-year-olds to buy into Medicare.
Democrats are saying privately that they feel betrayed by the Connecticut lawmaker after abandoning their push for a government-funded insurance option to compete against insurers deemed too expensive. They note that Lieberman even lobbied for the Medicare buy-in when he campaigned as Al Gore’s vice-presidential running mate.
"I think the danger always is you try to add too much onto a bill," the anti-Medicare-expansion Lieberman told reporters Monday evening. Thus, he demanded that Democrats "take off some of this stuff that runs the risk of creating federal debt, and moves toward a government takeover of insurance, which I think would be bad."
Some observers speculate that Lieberman, who is a member of the Democratic Caucus, relished his sudden power-broker status.
“We may have to do what Mr. Lieberman wants," said Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who along with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) say the Medicare buy-in will likely be dropped.
The Medicare proposal was negotiated by a team of 10 Democratic senators – five liberal and five moderate – as a way to get sweeping health-care legislation through Congress. It reflected a compromise between those wanting the government-funded option and those opposing it.
"I am confident that by next week we'll be on our way to forward this bill to the president," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.