Joe Lieberman Not The Man He Used To Be On Medicare Buy-In

ZUMA Press/Newscom
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Meet Joe Lieberman, Medicare buy-in advocate. It’s the winter of 2000, and Lieberman is pressing flesh and kissing babies in Bangor, Maine as the presidential election approaches. After holding a town hall meeting with voters at Bangor’s opera house on Main Street, Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, sits down with the local paper to discuss the upcoming election and his ticket’s plan to improve the nation’s health care system by allowing some younger Americans to “buy in” to the government run program. As his running mate, Al Gore, has been doing on the trail for weeks, Lieberman talks up the value of a buy-in, eloquently arguing that it’s a great compromise way to get incremental health care reform past members of Congress wary of a robust health care reform bill.

You know the members he’s talking about. The ones that say any government-run health insurance plan, including a Medicare expansion, will bankrupt the country and hurt private insurance companies. The ones that, as of this weekend, count Joe Lieberman as one of their strongest allies.

Joe Lieberman, meet Joe Lieberman.From the 2000 interview in the Bangor Daily News:

In an interview after the town meeting, Lieberman said that
health care changes can only come incrementally, which is why the
Democratic ticket hasn’t proposed an overhaul of the system.

“The kinds of proposals that Al Gore and I are making are the
result of what we learned over the last eight years, and they’re
designed to be acceptable to both parties in Congress,” he said.

“It may not be a neat one size does it all,” Lieberman said.

He said during the interview that the fastest growing group of
uninsured are those 55 to 65. For that reason, the ticket proposes
an expansion of Medicare to allow those and older to buy into the
public program. There would still be a buy-in price but it would be
less than buying private insurance, he said.

It’s not clear exactly when the Lieberman of 2000 turned into the Lieberman of Dec. 14, 2009, but it looks like it wasn’t too long ago. In a Sept. 8, 2009 interview with the Connecticut Post, Lieberman outlined his opposition to a public option but suggested a way coverage could be expanded without one:

Reform should also include malpractice reform and health exchanges, which would offer different plans for varying costs and coverage for individuals or small businesses, he said.

Lieberman added that he supports mandating that no one can be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and that everyone be required to have health insurance.

As to how 47 million uninsured will afford coverage, Lieberman said only 12 million don’t have insurance because they cannot afford it.

By allowing citizens who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to buy in for a rate below the private market, the government can extend coverage to more of those who are currently uninsured, he said.

To arrive at his position, Lieberman said he reached out to “every conceivable group” in the state, including residents, providers, doctors and hospitals.

Greg Sargent clipped the ConnPost video of Lieberman’s Medicare insurance buy-in endorsement from September:

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