Reader Question – How is the Medicare buy-in different from the public option?

A reader asks:

I was listening to the commentary between you and Pete earlier this afternoon and had a question about buy-in and medicare.
The public option from what I understand is dead.  My understanding of the public option was, and still is, a pay-to-play type of setup.  You pay a premium to a not for profit health insurance provider and in return are covered for unforseen medical needs.  One of the callers, I believe it was Alabama, mentioned not for profit insurance and the ability to purchase coverage through premiums.
How is the buy-in to medicare, besides age groups, any different from the public option or the ability to purchage coverage from a not for profit provider?
It’s really not that much different.  We’re basically offering Medicare as a “public option” for people in the exchange over 55 years of age.  The only difference is that Medicare can run at a deficit (while the public option would not have been able to do so), so it will be trickier to set premiums.  And, Medicare may be more expensive than some of the plans offered in the exchange.  We’ll have to wait and see.
The politics are different as well.  Since everyone seems to have rallied around Medicare, it may be trickier to demonize it in the same way some did the public option.

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