Sherrod Brown wants Medicare buy-in at age 50 as an option

NEW YORK • Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown defended his push to allow Americans over age 50 to buy into Medicare, rather than seeking universal government coverage as some progressive Democrats advocate, and said the odds of him running for president are about 50-50.

“Probably, more or less,” Brown said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “I don’t know, 50-50, 51-49.”

Brown joined Democratic colleagues Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin in introducing a bill on Feb 13 that would allow Americans over age 50 to buy into Medicare, the federal health insurance programme that currently provides coverage for those 65 and older.

While some other leading Democrats are pushing for a “Medicare-for-all” plan with government coverage for all Americans, Brown said on CNN that’s difficult to achieve, and “will take a while”.

“I support universal coverage,” Brown said. “But I want to help people now.”

The senator said he supports preserving private health insurance under former US President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and building on it, not repealing it as Republicans have tried to do for years.

“You don’t wipe it off, wipe it away and then come up with something new that will take time and will cause people angst and anguish to move to a different plan,” he said. “Give people the options now.”

A majority of Americans support a national “Medicare-for-all” system, according to a survey by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation released in January. But larger majorities favour more incremental changes to the healthcare system such as a Medicare buy-in programme, the survey found.

Brown, 66, has been visiting states with early presidential caucuses
and primaries as part of a listening tour as he considers whether to join what’s already a crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge US President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I have been to Iowa, New Hampshire, and we’re going to Nevada and South Carolina in the next couple of weeks,” Brown said on CNN. “We will have a timetable in the next couple, three weeks to make a decision.” — Bloomberg