Maybe Uncle Joe simply isn't very good at this. In rolling out his healthcare plan this week, he's angering critics on the Right and Left alike -- albeit in defense of a proposal that would likely poll quite well. For conservatives, he's resurrecting literally the most notorious domestic policy falsehood of the Obama administration, once again assuring Americans that under his plan, they can keep their private insurance plans if they like them. Barack Obama's infamous rendition of this false pledge was named the 2013 'lie of the year' by left-leaning Politifact. And now it's back, baby:
Joe Biden, at an AARP event in Des Moines, describing his health care proposal: "If you like your health care plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If you like your private insurance, you can keep it."— Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein) July 15, 2019
According to healthcare expert and journalist Philip Klein, Biden's "new" idea -- which was defeated during the Obamacare debate a decade ago, due to Democratic skittishness -- is to create a new government-run "public option" within the Obamacare structure:
Joe Biden on Monday outlined a healthcare proposal that, while less disruptive than rival plans to socialize the U.S. health insurance system, would still dramatically increase the price tag of Obamacare and likely erode employer insurance. What he proposed would, in several ways, greatly increase the cost of Obamacare -- which itself increased federal spending on healthcare by about $2 trillion over a decade...The biggest feature of Biden's proposal is the introduction of a new government-run plan to be offered on the exchanges...If Biden wants to offer everybody with an offer of employer coverage the ability to purchase insurance through the exchange, it raises a number of questions. Would those people also be able to choose among private plans, or just the government option? Would people who declined employer coverage now be entitled to government subsidies? ...Biden's plan would certainly be less costly and disruptive than a $32 trillion proposal requiring all Americans to enroll in a single government plan that would cancel private insurance for 180 million people. But it would still be extraordinarily expensive and disruptive.
Read this whole analysis to learn why Bidencare would be "Obamacare on steroids," replete with higher costs and major disruptions. It also outlines a number of major questions Biden has yet to answer about his plan. Reason's Peter Suderman is also quite right to point out that the very existence of Bidencare is an admission that Obamacare has failed to deliver on its lofty promises, which can also be said of the major single-payer 'repeal and replace' push on the Left:
Biden's pitch for his new health care plan is that it would do what Obamacare was already supposed to have done. https://t.co/JgJPqYUOdV— Peter Suderman (@petersuderman) July 16, 2019
Still, in theory, the appeal of Biden's proposal is that it would keep an Obama legacy intact without throwing 180 million Americans off of their private insurance (with which the vast majority are satisfied) by making their coverage illegal, as 'Medicare for All' would do. Hence the refreshed "keep your plan" vow. The problem is that this promise will once again fail. Why? As Klein puts it, "if the government subsidies are large enough to attract enough workers, employers could decide that it's no longer worth offering employer coverage. That would mean many people who prefer their current employer plans would end up losing them anyway, despite Biden's promises that they would be able to keep their coverage." The government would undercut the private market with taxpayer-funded subsidies, leading to a "competition" that's rigged to favor the government plan. This would lead to employers dumping employees into the public/government option, squeezing private insurers out of business. That means that, no, many people would not be able to keep their preferred plans. This isn't some conspiracy theory, either. It's the stated goal of many of its supporters:
That was back in 2009 and 2010. Elected Democrats are making the same exact point, explicitly, today. As we'e highlighted previously, here is Kirsten Gillibrand at last month's Democratic debate:
The quickest way you get [to single-payer] is you create competition with the insurers. God bless the insurers, if they want to compete, they can certainly try, but they've never put people over their profits, and I doubt they ever will. So what will happen is people will choose Medicare, you will transition, we will get to Medicare for all, and then your step to single-payer is so short.
Pete Buttigieg agreed:
You take something like Medicare, a flavor of that, you make it available on the exchanges, people can buy in. And then if people like us are right, that that will be not only a more inclusive plan, but a more efficient plan than any of the corporate answers out there, then it will be a very natural glide path to the single-payer environment.
The shared goal is government-run, single-payer healthcare, which means the elimination of private insurance. The debate among Democrats is how fast to get there, and with how much policy misdirection. Because Joe Biden wants to take a slower and more circuitous route, he's angering progressives who want it all right now. He's also needling them by calling 'Medicare for All' politically unviable, and by also pointing out that the new system would result in higher costs (via taxes) and fewer benefits for current Medicare seniors. In short, Biden is upsetting his own party's base by highlighting inconvenient political and policy realities about their Holy Grail, he's rankling conservatives by reheating an epic Obamacare lie, and he's setting up millions of voters for newfound frustration and betrayal when they...can't keep their coverage under his proposal. It ain't easy being a "moderate" frontrunner these days. But Biden is correct that people like their private insurance, and as we've learned, many are very change-averse on healthcare:
“The polling bears out this sentiment: 83 percent of people with employer-sponsored insurance said in March 2016 that they thought their health insurance was excellent or good, according to @KaiserFamFound polling” Cost may be eroding that # since but that’s a big hill. https://t.co/Sba95NLBw0— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) July 17, 2019
.@AOC, asked about warnings from Joe Biden on Medicare for All, says nobody is “heartbroken” at the idea of losing private insurance.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 17, 2019
“People like their health care, they like their doctor,” she says. “But I’d be interested in what the public polling on Aetna would look like.”
People highly value their existing arrangements, and a government takeover threatens the whole system -- plans, doctors, everything.
UPDATE - More incoherent BS from Kamala:
For context, if we did *every* Dem tax hike on rich -- the 70% tax bracket, the wealth tax, the 77% estate tax, the 10% corporate hike, and the financial transactions tax, it adds up $3.2 trillion -- or 10% of the cost of Medicare For-All (and those are the rosy estimates).— Brian Riedl (@Brian_Riedl) July 17, 2019