President Donald Trump went through an entire presidential campaign promising “wonderful” health care that would cover “everybody,” without a higher price or an increase in taxes. It was a con, much bigger and more damaging than the Trump University scam. Trump had nothing in his cupboard on health care (or anything else); Republicans in Congress only had take-aways from vulnerable Americans. They lacked a better idea to put up against the Affordable Care Act. You know the rest. A crash and burn, a political humiliation.
Now comes Sen. Bernie Sanders offering single-payer health care. It will be wonderful. It will cover everybody. It will somehow save us money. Other people’s taxes will pay for it. Sound familiar?
Savvier Democrats will figure out that at the very least the timing is self-serving and counterproductive for the party, whose nomination Sanders sought but whose affiliation he will not accept. They just got through a miraculous fight to save Obamacare, making clear the GOP were the radical, irresponsible ones and they were the sober people to fix the existing system without turning our lives upside down, again. Obamacare was working, they argued. New figures showing an all-time low of 8.8 percent uninsured seemed to bolster their case. Then along comes Sanders to say, “That Obamacare — forget about it!” Huh?
Were Democrats lying when they said it could be stabilized? Didn’t they plan on running in 2018 against those mean Republicans who wanted to take away your health care? It must have all been a dream.
Alas, on this Hillary Clinton had it exactly right. “Well, I don’t know what the particulars are,” Clinton said on her book tour on Wednesday about Sanders’s plan. “As you might remember, during the campaign he introduced a single-payer bill every year he was in Congress — and when somebody finally read it, he couldn’t explain it and couldn’t really tell people how much it was going to cost.” Umm, flawed messenger but she’s hit the nail on the head. And don’t think this is sour grapes (or only sour grapes) from a losing candidate.
Jim Newell of that notorious right-wing outlet (not!) Slate cautions:
Single-payer supporters shouldn’t just take these supposed believers in government-sponsored health care at their word. Until they answer the difficult questions the Medicare for All Act of 2017 evades—omissions that were made specifically to earn their buy-ins—their support should be treated as posturing and not a true commitment to push for single-payer if and when they have the chance. The politicians latching onto single-payer to score points with the Democrats’ progressive base don’t owe those answers to Washington’s scolding policy wonk class. They owe a full litigation of the process to single-payer’s supporters, who deserve to know that their representatives aren’t making them promises they’re not willing to keep.
In other words, do not let Sanders pull the wool over the eyes of Democrats the way Trump snookered the whole country.
It’s not just the cost or the problems inherent in government-run medical systems (shortages of providers, longer waits, etc.) that are the problem. One would think the Sanders followers had learned nothing from the fight to keep Obamacare.
As one commentator put it, “Designing a single-payer system means not only covering the uninsured, but financing the cost of moving the 155 million Americans who have employer-based insurance onto Medicare. That is not a detail to be worked out. It is the entire problem.” That’s no right-wing crank; it’s Jonathan Chait.
Democrats might want to listen to Chait’s warning: “A nonspecific health-care plan that lacks a plausible financing system has accomplished approximately zero percent of the necessary work, as the Republicans discovered this year. . . . [Sanders] employs the classic populist technique of imagining the people as a whole standing united around an obvious solution, and only the machinations of an invidious elite can thwart them.”
The Center for American Progress, arguably the most politically astute left-leaning think tank out there, is taking it one step at a time. While it has long-favored universal coverage, it is looking to advance the debate by evaluating a variety of proposals, according to those familiar with its outlook. For now, CAP is fighting back against the last gasp of the Obamacare repeal effort.
Topher Spiro, CAP’s vice president for health policy, in a written statement on Wednesday didn’t remark on Sanders’s plan. Instead he bashed the Graham-Cassidy bill as “one of the most devastating proposals put forth by congressional Republican leaders yet” and urged “a bipartisan solution to stabilize health care markets.” He argued, “It’s time to abandon partisan attempts to repeal the ACA once and for all. We should have an immediate goal to address threats to the ACA’s marketplaces. Efforts led by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) present a real and rare opportunity to work on a bipartisan basis to obtain these fixes to stabilize the markets and lower premiums. Congress should embrace it.” Fix the immediate problem, take a victory lap and assess next steps. Bypass that and Democrats will wind up just like the Republicans did — with a bumper sticker instead of a feasible policy.
The GOP has been taken over by etho-nationalists with no rational economic policies. If the Democrats now allow themselves to be yanked around by self-declared socialists with no rational economic policies one of two things will happen — either the country will be in deep trouble (facing a future of irresponsible presidents and angrier, more disappointed voters who seek more and more extreme leaders) or a party ranging from center-right to center-left will emerge.
In the latter there would be differences on the size and scope of government, just how much tax revenue we need, how much the federal government should do, etc. It will, however, be a discussion among rational adults willing to work off of a common set of facts (technically called “reality”) and engage in good faith arguments. That used to be what the Republicans and Democrats did, but if both of the major parties are going off the deep end, then sober-minded folk who care about governance and the details will need to hash it out among themselves and make the case to the American people. They’ll have to act and treat their fellow Americans like mature adults, not like children to be bribed with candy or delicate flowers that will wilt if exposed to the harsh rays of reality. They will reach consensus the old fashioned way, by compromise tempered by experience.