There are no easy answers, in the acrimonious American health care struggle, but that has never stopped Bernie Sanders from claiming he’s got them. He is going around the country this week attempting to drum up support for his beloved “Medicare for All” bill, in the same week that the Republicans are quietly gathering votes for one last effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The timing on this is terrible. It’s a dangerous distraction.
Because Bernie doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Even in his own home state of Vermont, with the entire Democratic political establishment behind him, he was not able to pass a single-payer plan. The plan he introduced in his 2016 presidential platform was criticized heavily for being wasteful and impractical.
It was just this type of financial recklessness that caused Vermont’s Burlington College to shutter its doors last year, thanks to the policies of Jane Sanders, Bernie’s wife. College leaders announced in May 2016 that the college had buckled under “the crushing weight of debt.”
Bernie ran for president on a promise of revolution. A really expensive one. According to a report done at the time by the Tax Policy Center, Sanders’ taxation-and-spending plans would add $18 trillion to the national debt over a decade, plus $3 trillion in interest costs. The center’s Howard Gleckman called it an “unprecedented increase in government borrowing.”
But he never had an answer as to where any of this money would come from. He said that the reviled and terrible “1%” would be paying their fair share, which seemed to imply that would cover it, but even if the government seized every penny currently held as assets by the 1%, we would still come up short.
Hillary Clinton said in her new book that it was challenging to have a straightforward argument with Bernie about health care. “He would say, ‘Oh we’re gonna, you know, do single-payer.’ And I would say, “How you gonna do it?” And ‘Uhh’- he wouldn’t know.”
Bernie has yet to provide details on just how the nation would go about making the shift to ‘Medicare for All’ and how the program’s specifics are to function. Unanswered questions include whether health care providers would accept severe cuts in payments, and how medical costs would be contained if they do. Unease about these kinds of uncertainty is why Bernie’s 2013 bill for a single-payer Medicare-for-all system failed to gain a single adherent.
The point here is not the varying merits of of single-payer systems themselves. That question is for the specialists- and for the individual- to answer. The point is three decades of hard work bitter struggle over public health care being placed at risk, over Bernie’s irresponsible attempts to focus resources wastefully.
We just finished winning a gigantic fight on health care. And it isn’t over, either. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) are quietly preparing one final repeal attempt. They held a Senate GOP lunch on Thursday, in which they gathered votes behind closed doors, and nobody is talking about it. And Trump is still fuming. Look for him to sabotage Obamacare, any way he can.
It is the opinion of Millennial Democrats that cannot possibly be a good idea to ignore this, while Bernie runs around the country spouting off about single payer. The Affordable Care Act is still standing. We came out ahead. It’s time to consolidate our gains and move on to more pressing fights.
Having raised that basic objection, however, one thing must be conceded to Bernie and the other adherents of a single- payer health care system. They managed to raise nationwide interest in their idea. A recent poll did indicate that a slight majority of Americans are at least for having the discussion, and for this reason, a discussion will be had. This is a democracy, and we are Democrats. We will do what we can to accommodate the hopes of the people of the country. But Bernie is not the man to be in charge of it.
It is for that reason that some Democrats have signed on with this idea. If a single-payer health care system is going to be planned for then professionals need to be on board. And we are the only ones who’ve got them, thanks to the experience our party has gained over three decades of fighting the health care battle. Either way it goes, the situation will require competent management. That’s what Democrats provide.
Moving forward, it will be necessary to keep a close eye on reality and to remain well-grounded in our thinking. This needs to be a process not of revolution, but of evolution. If it gets screwed up, it could really hurt a lot of people. That fact should never be lost sight of.
Trump is huffing and puffing and hopping up and down, screaming that single payer is a “curse on the nation”. Bernie is screaming in the opposite direction just as loudly, and the whole thing has turned into a political pro wrestling match. If the climate worsens much more, America may miss it entirely when the new ACA repeal comes up for vote again before the end of the month. If this isn’t handled right, Medicare for All might turn into Medicare for None. That would be a tragic joke of the darkest order. It cannot be allowed.