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Dem Leader: Oops, Private Health Insurance Is Not as Good as Medicare

On “Meet the Press,” Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, inadvertently admitted how mediocre the new health care law is when he attacked Republican Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal for Medicare. The new health care law creates a system of expanding coverage by forcing people to buy poorly regulated private health insurance and providing subsidies or vouchers to make it more affordable.

Rep. Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” would completely eliminate Medicare and replace it with a system similar to the new health care law’s exchanges for individuals and small businesses. Seniors would no longer just directly receive government health insurance from the popular Medicare program. Instead, just like those who buy from new exchanges, they would receive government subsidies and be required to buy their own individual coverage from the private insurance companies.

Van Hollen rightly made it clear that eliminating the popular and cost-effective public Medicare program and replacing it with subsidized, badly regulated private insurance companies would be a terrible idea. He calls giving vouchers to seniors and making them buy private health insurance “throwing you over to the insurance industry.”

Van Hollen correctly argues that government-run, single-payer Medicare is a much better way to provide health insurance than subsidized individual private insurance plans. Yet, during the health care fight, he never advocated for the simple solution of expanding Medicare to the uninsured. He promoted a law that used an idea—from the Republicans—to make vouchers for private insurance.

If Ryan’s plan is “throwing seniors over to the insurance industry,” then, by default, the new health care law Van Hollen supported is throwing the uninsured and individuals under 65 over to the insurance industry. It is too bad that it’s only after passage that Van Hollen finally, accidentally, admits the new law’s way to expand coverage is absurd compared with implementing single-payer public health insurance.

Just to recap: Making senior citizens buy subsidized individual private health insurance is dangerously throwing them to the insurance industry. But a new law making people under 65 buy subsidized individual insurance coverage from private companies is a progressive victory.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at