Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) is one of the first senators to publicly criticize a Medicare buy-in proposal offered by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), telling reporters today that he opposes plans that use Medicare levels of reimbursement, which he's long said would harm hospitals in North Dakota.
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Conrad says he needs answers: "If you expand medicare, what kind of a risk pool is that going to be? How is that going to affect the Medicare risk pool? What's that going to do to rates, what's that going to do to medicare solvency?" he asked rhetorically. "We don't have answers to those questions."
Rockefeller didn't take too kindly to this.
"I'm really very tired of hearing about that from him," an exasperated Rockefeller told reporters. "And it's always about North Dakota, and it's never about any other part of the country. And I thought, you know, that's what we're trying to do--we're trying to do the best thing for the country as a whole."
Ouch! We'll try to get more clarity on how far Conrad's opposition stretches. The key question in all of this, after all, is whether the compromise that comes out of the negotiating sessions between liberal and conservative Democrats can garner 60 votes. A Medicare buy-in would allow some people under the age of 65 to purchase their insurance through Medicare, which would likely charge much lower premiums than the private market.