Could buying into Medicare be answer to GOP health care bill?

Jul 17, 2017

Both Republicans and Democrats are saying the Senate health care bill will not pass, even if an actual vote is delayed longer. WBFO talked with Congressman Brian Higgins, who said it is time to look beyond the plan for something new.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Senator John McCain's surgery means the vote will have to be delayed until he returns, even though McCain has been a vocal critic of the bill. McConnell needs 50 of the 52 Republican senators to vote for the bill - assuming Vice President Mike Pence would break any tie. But the party does not have the 50.

Higgins said that is why he is working with a couple of other congressman on a plan to allow people age 50-64 to buy Medicare coverage. The South Buffalo Democrat said it is needed because the present bill is so bad, citing the legislation allowing pre-existing conditions not to be covered.

"They say that if you seek a waiver and you stand on your head and you do a million different things, you might be able to get coverage," says Higgins. "The reality is an insurance company could you still write you a policy under their bill and if you have a kid who's struck with childhood cancer that policy would not have to cover your kid's cancer treatment."

Obamacare required pre-existing condition coverage. That is why Higgins is attacking provisions in the proposed legislation that allows insurance companies to offer health coverage that does not actually cover much because the limits are so narrow and deductibles are so high.

Higgins said the Medicare purchase would make a lot of changes in health care.

"Simply allowing people at their own expense to buy in to Medicare at age 50 to 64 would not only provide additional leverage to drive down costs for both drugs, prescription drugs and health care, but it would also serve to stabilize the private insurance market," he said.

Higgins said the United States spends more than any other country and gets worse results in care. No replacement for the Affordable Care Act means it stays in place, with all parts of it staying in effect.

"Those will stay in place if there is no repeal vote and I think this puts Congress back at Square One of trying to embrace the components of the Affordable Care Act that people do like, and finding ways to build on that," he said.