Rep. Alan Grayson appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss his bill, “The Public Option Act,” which allows people under sixty-five to buy into Medicare. The bill has attracted fifty co-sponsors:
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: I’ve introduced a simple three-and-a-half-page bill that opens up Medicare to anybody who wants it. If you want it and you pay for it, it’s yours. It’s that simple. It’s open to everybody under the age of sixty-five, whether or not you’re handicapped. And you pay the same amount as other people your age would pay.
And the reason to do this is because we need a public option. We need an option that doesn’t involve putting us at the tender mercies of insurance companies, particularly if there’s a mandate to do so. A lot of people feel that there is a fundamental conflict of interest between themselves and private insurance companies. The private insurance companies make money by denying you the care that you need to be healthy, and sometimes to stay alive. And a lot of people are just sick of it.
So the way to get beyond that is to open up Medicare, which is now available to only one-eighth of the population, to anybody who’s willing to pay for it. And it makes perfect sense when you think about it. I mean, we don’t say the federal highways are only open to senior citizens. And the Medicare provider network is an enormously valuable, expensive thing that we’ve created with federal tax dollars that ought to be open to everyone, not just seniors.
AMY GOODMAN: And how does this fit into the major piece of legislation that will or—I don’t know would even pass—won’t be voted on by the House?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: My hope was that we would vote not only on the Senate bill, which doesn’t have a public option, not only on the reconciliation amendment, which probably will not have a public option, but that we’d also vote on this, that there’d be three votes instead of two votes. And if we voted on this and we passed it, then it would be presented to the Senate and subject to reconciliation in the Senate, so that we could end up with a public option.
AMY GOODMAN: Now?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Now.
AMY GOODMAN: Right, but now?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: And if not, then it’s something to build for in the future.
ANJALI KAMAT: And would you support the bill even if your bill doesn’t go through?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, if you’re talking about the Senate bill combined with the reconciliation fix, the answer is yes, because that’s a bill that saves lives and saves money. And I feel that to do that, to deny 30 million Americans the insurance that they would have under that bill, the Senate bill with the reconciliation fix, would be cutting your nose to spite my face. So I would be very reluctant to vote against a bill that will end up doing so much good for the Americans who don’t have insurance and also help to restrain the growth, the large growth, of premiums for those who do, and make insurance manageable for people and establish certain minimum standards. Those are all good things to do.
But I think it’s a better thing to do to combine all of those things with the public option. We’ve heard all year long from the Democratic leadership and from the President that we need a public option to provide competition to insurance companies where there is no competition. All over the country, including many places in Florida, we have markets where insurance companies have 80 percent of the market, if there’s only one or two of them. So it’s a monopoly or it’s an oligopoly for 80 percent of the market or more. And those insurance companies charge you whatever they want, and they give you whatever little care they can get away with. And that’s true all over the country. If Medicare was available to anybody who was willing to pay for it, then in a place where there was an insurance company monopoly there’d be two choices. In a place where there are two choices already, there’d be three choices. And that’s going to be a dramatic improvement .