Hoyer: Expansion of Federal Health Programs ‘Worth Consideration’

Posted December 8, 2009 at 12:52pm

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid that’s gaining traction in the Senate as part of an alternative to a public insurance option is “an idea worth consideration.—

The proposal — which would lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 55 and allow people with higher incomes to buy into Medicaid — has emerged in recent days from negotiations between liberal and moderate Senate Democrats trying to find a replacement for a public option that appears short on support in that chamber. The group of 10 Senators continued to meet Tuesday and race to come up with a compromise, perhaps by the end of the day.

The No. 2 House Democrat couched the assessment by stating he did not want to “anticipate what is acceptable or not acceptable— in the Senate. But he also pointed to the difficulty of finding 60 Senate votes on a reform package, and he praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) “herculean— efforts to forge consensus.

Hoyer earlier this year said that while he supported the public option, it should not determine the fate of the broader health care reform drive. If the Senate compromise takes hold, the key question will be whether liberal House Democrats will revolt — and in sufficient numbers to endanger the bill.