From NBC's Ken Strickland
While stopping short of saying the White House told Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to cut a deal with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an administration official today said eliminating the provision Lieberman objected to would be acceptable.
On Sunday, Lieberman said he couldn't support a bill that included the expansion of Medicare to Americans from 55- to 64-years old. The administration official said if the provision was removed from the bill, it would not be a deal breaker for the White House.
The source also hinted at the possibility of garnering the support of Republican Olympia Snowe (R-ME) if the item was off the table because it was also a point of contention with her.
Though no one has confirmed Medicare expansion proposal is dead, removing it would also throw cold water on another fire simmering within the Democratic caucus. On Friday, 10 Democrats wrote a letter to Reid expressing concern about the Medicare expansion idea, which Reid sent to the Congressional Budget Office for cost analysis.
The group says that hospitals and doctors in their smaller, more rural states currently get less money in Medicare reimbursement rates. They urged Reid to hold off on expansion until the inequities can be addressed.
"Creating a Medicare buy-in program will exacerbate the existing funding inequity," the group said in the letter it Reid. It was signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Al Franken (D-MN), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tom Udall (D-NM). "Medicare is spending over one-third more for each Medicare beneficiary in some states compared to ours. The combination of an antiquated payment formula that tends to penalize rural providers and greater medical efficiency in our states has forced many physicians to stop accepting Medicare patients or limit the number of Medicare patients they serve," they wrote.