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I just read where Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell has called for a Congress of bipartisanship. The move undoubtedly generated by the reality the House of Representatives is now controlled by the Democrats.

Here is another reality. The election is over. The business of government is now governing. While the Democrats think their focus should be on investigating the various alleged wrong doings by the Trump administration, it would not be in the national interest for this to be their sole focus.

It is important in conducting the affairs of government to focus on what issues motivated the public vote. No doubt one of those driving issues was health care, and as important as preserving pre-existing conditions coverage was, there was a consensus across party lines that affordability of health insurance was equally important.

Republicans, you will recall, resisted any attempt to make Medicare for all, arguing it would bankrupt the system. The most progressive Democrats wanted exactly that, saying if it were funded, bankruptcy wouldn’t be a problem.

Taking Senator McConnell at his word and hoping the Democrats don’t get so riled up with investigations, there may be a solution that makes some sense. Enter please Richard Vague, a Philadelphia capitalist, who rose to economic prominence in the energy field and later had success in the credit card industry. He is giving serious consideration to running for president. Ho, ho, ho you say? So, who was Howard Dean or Mike Huckabee? Sometimes, new blood brings new solutions to old problems.

He recently wrote, “A majority of people, of all political leanings, want their health care premiums and deductibles to stop rising. Whether coverage is provided by their employer or comes from elsewhere, American wages and advances in quality of life are being lost to health care costs.”

His solution is a half-step, but an important one. Starting at age 55 let individuals, if they want, buy into Medicare coverage. Note, it is not mandated, each can choose whether to join or not based on their individual circumstances.

Vague, an engaging and energetic man, has his reasons for lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare, but I have my own. It is time that we face the fact that the American workforce is changing, especially for workers age 50 to 66. Almost gone from the horizon is the way we wish to view retirement. There was the company pension, the equity in a paid-off home and Social Security. With Medicare, health care costs were affordable.

But there are not the employers’ pensions anymore. They have been replaced with individually funded 401(k), savings accounts and, maybe for some, inheritance. For many, the bursting of the housing bubble seriously diminished home equity as a source of income.

Now when you hit 50, your health insurance premiums start dramatically increasing every year, even when not used. The upward march of cost continues until, finally, Medicare eligibility is obtained. Money that could be set aside for retirement is gone.

In this case it is hard to blame the insurance companies, because the pool of those over 50 is naturally more expensive. But if we take steps to remove the higher risk individuals from the pool, insurance costs should stabilize if not retreat. Please don’t forget if you are an employer providing health care coverage for your employees, then the older the enrollee, the higher the cost of their coverage.

When trying to pass legislation in a Congress, the first place to look is who will benefit from the undertaking. Lowering employer health care costs is a natural for groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau. For Democrats, while such a step isn’t the whole loaf, it is a pretty good slice of bread.

If the Senate majority leader is sincere, and he can find five to 10 votes on his side of the chamber, and if the speaker can quiet the purists of the left, then the legislation could pass.

I don’t know if Richard Vague is going to run for president or not, but if he has a couple more ideas like this one, I hope he does.

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Dave Nagle is a Waterloo attorney and former U.S. congressman.


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