This week, in town hall meetings 400 miles apart, two senators — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — seemed to inch closer to a compromise on health care reform.
In a Thursday meeting in Palco, Kan., Sen. Jerry Moran said he would not support the current health care bill without changes to its Medicaid provisions. Moran is worried about the impact of Medicaid cuts on rural hospitals and clinics.
Wednesday, in Ashland, Mo., Sen. Claire McCaskill suggested individuals in counties without a private health insurer should be able to enroll in a public plan.
We applaud both senators for meeting with constituents and for showing flexibility in reaching an important health care compromise.
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Obamacare has significant problems, including higher premiums in some states and a lack of insurance providers in others.
Democrats should seek common ground with Republicans, who want to give states more flexibility to design cheaper health policies. Those policies would provide less coverage with higher deductibles and co-pays, but they might be a good option for younger customers who lack insurance.
Cheaper policies would also satisfy another GOP demand: the end of the individual mandate. If the cost of insurance drops, more Americans would purchase coverage, making the mandate irrelevant.
But older, sicker people must be protected. Republicans should embrace higher federal subsidies for individuals buying policies on health care exchanges and stronger federal guarantees for insurance companies.
The Obamacare exchanges aren’t a failure, but some are distorted by unique circumstances, particularly in poor, rural counties. Congress can easily shore up the exchanges that need help.
McCaskill’s idea of a public option in underserved areas is a good one. And pre-existing conditions must be covered.
At the same time, Republicans such as Moran know deep Medicaid cuts would be ruinous to rural health care providers and for patients in nursing homes.
The GOP must drop its demand for massive cuts to Medicaid — more than $70 billion a year, compared with current law. Those cuts threaten opioid treatment programs, nursing home care, health care for children and rural hospitals.
The Medicaid cuts are unacceptable.
Republicans can pay for Medicaid by dropping their insistence on huge tax reductions as part of health care reform.
Such a compromise, or something close to it, would be denounced by activists on the left and right. But as Jerry Moran and Claire McCaskill might tell you, it could work in the middle — and in the middle of America, too.