While he may caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, Mr. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) likes to be independent. The self-described democratic socialist gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money during the 2016 primaries. In the era of Trump, Sanders sees the progressive momentum within the Democratic Party as a foundation to push his pet issue: single-payer health care. Though it’s called Medicare-for-all, Sanders has amassed over a dozen Democratic sponsors. The progressive base loves it, even pushing for it to be used as a litmus test when it comes to supporting Democrats in elections. Being unabashedly pro-abortion is another debated test, but that’s for another time.
Yet, not everyone is thrilled about this hard left push on healthcare. For starters, the cost of this plan is ridiculous; it’s $32 trillion (and that may be lowballing the figure). It will almost certainly raise everyone’s taxes and to keep costs down, specialized treatment and access to those doctors will have to be rationed. More taxes for less access—that’s not a good selling point. Steve Rattner, Obama’s former adviser during the auto bailout, penned an op-ed in The New York Times about how this single-payer push could be disastrous for Democrats, notably pointing to how Colorado overwhelmingly rejected a single-payer push, along with this pie-in-the-sky idea having never worked for Democrats on a national stage before:
Mr. Sanders — who, of course, isn’t even a registered Democrat — is banging on about what he calls “Medicare for All,” a government-run plan that would provide health care coverage for every American.
But now the crusty Vermont independent wants to be a senatorial pied piper for Democrats. He has made his proposal into a kind of litmus test for who is a “good Democrat,” inveigling 16 of his colleagues — more than a third of Senate Democrats — into endorsing it.
As a centrist Democrat, I’m scared to see my party pulled into positions that are both bad politics and dubious policy. And I’m disappointed that few of our party’s moderates are willing to resist the freight train coming at us from the left.
I understand why Mr. Sanders and his acolytes believe that sweeping progressive ideas — however unrealistic they may be — might capture the public imagination better than the more carefully constructed proposals of centrists, policies that are harder to articulate and can come across as mushy.
But the Sanders approach didn’t work for George McGovern in 1972 or Michael Dukakis in 1988, and I don’t believe it will work for Democrats in 2018 or 2020.
In Colorado last November, a whopping 80 percent of voters rejected a universal plan, again over taxes and costs. And for similar reasons, California recently shelved a single-payer proposal.
Amid the many complications of Medicare for All, the question of what would happen to the 157 million Americans who get their insurance from their employers and the 19 million who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage loom large.
Yes, the polling does shift when you include the employer-based insurance (via NBC News) [emphasis mine]:
The public is divided over a single-payer health care system, with 47 percent favoring such an approach and 46 percent opposing it.
But when supporters are told that all health care costs would be covered under a single-payer system — but that it would eliminate employer plans and that there would be only one government plan — the numbers move to 36 percent favor, 55 percent oppose.
The wet blanket has been thrown on single-payer before; The Washington Post reported how the working poor could be hammered by Sanders’ health care plan when he was running for president. Even Sanders has dodged questions about the plan’s cost, even having a Canadian doctor, who he invited to support his single-payer push, admit that the system creates long wait times. If voters were appalled by the wait times at Veterans Affairs, they’re not going to tolerate millions of such stories with this Sanders-care approach. In 1987, a video surfaced showing then-Mayor of Burlington Bernie Sanders admitting that Medicaid-for-All—Medicare’s sister health care program—would bankrupt the nation. Rattner concluded that the Democrats are on track to retake the House in 2018 and defat Trump in 2020. That’s debatable—and even Democratic operatives don’t buy that line, but he is right that nominating a left wing lunatic who pushes this in 2020 will be a guaranteed loss for the Democrats. So, I hope they keep pushing this.