Several outlets are reporting, and I can confirm, that Senate Democrats are considering a Medicare expansion as one item on a menu of concessions conservative Democrats would agree to in exchange for weakening or eliminating the public option in the health care bill.
Currently, Medicare exists as a single-payer system for seniors 65 and older. According to Hill sources, the idea would be to allow people under the age of 65 to buy in to Medicare. The option would be limited to people older than a certain age, though that age--and indeed the entire proposal--has yet to be agreed upon.
If Democrats sacrifice the public option, there will likely be a long list of alternatives in its place. This buy in could be one of them, as could a separate plan to allow the federal government to negotiate premiums with insurance companies for some consumers. These are the two ideas receiving the most buzz.
We'll know more of this in a day or two, when the 10 senators negotiating a public option compromise emerge with a concrete proposal. Follow along.