2009-12-18 / Top Stories

Weiner Backs Medicare Buy-In, Then It's Gone

By Howard Schwach

Congressman Anthony Weiner has long been in favor of including a "public option" in any health care bill that the Congress cared to pass.

In fact, he became the leading proponent of the public option, appearing on dozens of television shows, pushing his reform ideas.

Recently, however, he gave up the hope of the public option idea ever getting the votes necessary to pass muster in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and began to back an idea proposed by Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent senator from Connecticut.

That idea would have allowed those 55 years old and older to buy into the current Medicare system.

In an op-ed piece earlier in the week, Weiner wrote, "This is a winning formula because it follows an edict that virtually every American understands: Take what works and keep doing it."

On Tuesday, however, the New York Times and other news outlets reported that Lieberman was backing away from his own health care proposal.

Weiner issued a statement that Lieberman was dropping his own plan, "In part because I liked it."

"If this wasn't so sad, it would be amazing," Weiner added. "Here you have the most important legislation for millions of Americans' health and welfare, and apparently Senator Lie - berman backs away from his own proposal. Why? Because I and a professor at Yale like it. All I can say charitably is, I hope Senator Lieberman looks into his heart and does the right thing. This is not the time for anyone to act for politics, but to do the right thing. Let's be Senator Lieberman has proposed, repeatedly. That others embrace it should not be the criteria for leaders to make decisions. It would be tragic if this is what it appears, a decision based on hurting proponents of reform not helping the millions who need affordable health care coverage.

Some may say reformers should never have praised this measure. But that suggests we all agree to live in an Alice in Wonderland world of saying the opposite of what we mean. Now is the time to talk and act on the merits of an issue. Now is the time for leaders to make the right choices, not political calculations."

What happens to health care reform now that the Lieberman proposal is gone?

Weiner is not sure, but President Barak Obama and Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate still say that a bill will be signed by the end of the year.

Wiener says that change is always difficult, but that a new way of looking at health care is necessary.

"Change doesn't always mean doing things in an entirely new way," he said. "In the case of health care, real change means replacing what is broken with a proven approach that works."

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