Sen. Brown: Why Not ‘Medicare for the Whole Country?’ It ‘Would Be Terrific’

By Craig Millward | March 9, 2015 | 5:07pm EDT

( – While speaking with liberal talk-radio host Thom Hartmann last week, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he agreed with the idea of lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 0, and essentially establishing a national, government-run health care system, claiming it “would be terrific.”

Hartmann, while discussing the King v. Burwell case now before the Supreme Court, which could potentially end federal Obamacare subsidies for people in 34 states, said to Sen. Brown on Mar. 3, "Might it be a good time to start talking about alternatives, like, for example what Robert Ball, the guy who wrote the Medicare bill back in the ‘60s, is on the record saying ... that they put Medicare together in a way and with the assumption that a future president or a future Congress would simply start lowering the eligibility age by a decade every couple of years, giving a couple of years for the bureaucracy to absorb that many new enrollees, until eventually the eligibility age for Medicare was Zero."

Senator Brown said,  "Yeah, which I think is -- would be terrific. You may remember, Thom, because we talked during this process, I had written a provision in the Affordable Care Act to bring Medicare eligibility to 55, which was what Mr. Ball -- one of the things he suggested then and President Clinton worked on it 20 years ago and we thought we had that vote and Senator Lieberman changed his mind and we couldn't get the sixtith vote then."

Brown continued, "But ideally that's where we go with this, that Mediacre has worked for people over 65. There are, of course, problems, but it's worked.”


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). (AP Photo)

“Why not, at some point Medicare for the whole country?” said Brown.  “It's simpler, it's easier to explain, it's easier to understand, it's better with cost-containment, most importantly it gives everybody an understandable, comprehensive health insurance."

Brown also agreed with Hartmann that if the Supreme Court strikes down the federal subsidies, as explained in the King v. Burwell case, Republicans would be in the position of "the dog who finally caught the bumper on the car."

"They've said repeal and replace so many times, at nauseam, that -- I don't think they've really ever thought much about a replace," said Senator Brown. "When a quarter-of-a-million people in my state alone lose their insurance, if the court rules in the wrong way, they're going to have to explain it.”

“That doesn't mean they'll do anything and that's what concerns me so much,” he said, “that I don't know what happens to these quarter million people."


Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D.-Ill.). (AP)

Hartmann also posed the question to other members of Congress last week whether Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) legislation, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,  would be a next step for Democrats, no matter which way the Supreme Court rules on King v. Burwell.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of Conyers' bill, told Hartmann,  "Well, we certainly could attack this on a policy/political way and talk about single payer. The irony is that so many more states have a federal plan as it is. That's why those states would be in trouble if the decision were made – and, by the way, those states are mostly red states because they wouldn't form their own exchange

“And I think it does bring us closer to the idea -- let's go all the way if we're doing federal anyway,” said Schalowsky.  "If it would push us closer to a real national healthcare, Medicare for all kind of plan, that would be good."


Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. (AP)

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said,  "At the very least I'd like to see us revisit the notion of a public option and that could take the form of an option for people to get into the Medicare program other than through the current door."

Medicare, created in 1966, is a federally run health care program for people age 65 and older, and it also provides health insurance for younger people with certain disabilities or diseases.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce their decision in King v. Burwell in June.

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