In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D – MA) called for Democrats to embrace single payer and make it a core campaign issue in the upcoming 2018 midterms.
“President Obama tried to move us forward with health care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” Warren told the Journal, “Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”
And Warren’s not alone. Representative John Conyers (D – MI) introduced a Medicare-for-All bill in the House of Representatives early this year. That bill received 113 cosponsors. Bernie Sanders (I – VT) plans to introduce a similar bill in the Senate. Furthermore, the California state Senate passed a state single-payer system through their chamber. New York has considered comparable legislation.
Medical insurance that covers everyone, be it Medicare-for-All or Single-Payer, is clearly an idea that’s become popular with the American public. In fact, an analysis of the rhetoric of last year Presidential contest between the top three candidates, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump, shows all three advocating for a form of universal health coverage.
“I believe healthcare is a human right,” Bernie Sanders consistently stated during his campaign. Hillary Clinton promoted adding a public option to Obamacare. Trump vowed, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody.”
Yet, despite the three most competitive Presidential candidate all endorsing some form of universal healthcare, the Republican majority in Congress is hell bent on kicking 22 million off of their health insurance. Unsurprisingly, a bill that does so isn’t popular with the American people. A Fox News poll taken Wednesday showed just 27% of American support the GOP’s Obamacare replacement, others have that number as low as 17%.
As time goes by and the public has even more time to digest the bill, its popularity is going to continue to tank. This is why Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was attempting to jam the bill through the Senate by the July 4th recess. With McConnell delaying the vote, it’s tough to see how the GOP is going to get the votes to pass the bill.
Moderate Senators like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Dean Heller stand in stark opposition to the bill. Conservative hardliners like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have also voiced opposition, but are ostensibly more optimistic that they can get to yes. Appeasing Collins, Murkowski, and Heller is a monumental task in and of itself, and the more moderate the bill gets the less likely hard right members will be to vote for it. Add in the fact that McConnell can only stand to lost 2 votes, and the bill is in real trouble.
While the Republican solution to healthcare looks to be a disastrous piece of legislation that would raise premiums on the poor and elderly while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy, they aren’t wrong about everything. When they say Obamacare is failing, they have a point. The ACA has meant 10 million more people have health insurance, but costs haven’t dropped as anticipated and insurers continue to leave the market. The bill didn’t lead to increased competition as it intended, and healthy people often find it cheaper to just pay the penalty rather than buying expensive insurance.
The issue for Republicans is that they now own the issue of healthcare. They control both houses of Congress and the Presidency, and have that ability to pass healthcare legislation through the House and the Senate without a single Democratic vote. If they fail on healthcare reform, then whatever happens to Obamacare is going to be laid at their feet. If insurers continue to leave the exchanges and premiums/deductibles rise, the American people will blame the party in power for not fixing the problems and Democrats will get a boost at the polls.
If the GOP healthcare bill fails, which it looks like it will, and Donald Trump remains historically unpopular, which it look like he will, Democrats are going to win back major seats and likely the Presidency in 2018 and 2020. With a healthcare system that needs fixing and a majority party that is increasingly seeing single-payer as the fix, the stars would be aligned for the United States to get a national health system.
“If the GOP does not disengage the country’s health-care system from the disaster of Obamacare, we are headed for the misery of single-payer,” conservative radio host and writer Hugh Hewitt wrote in the Washington Post on Thursday.
If the Republicans can’t find a way to pass this bill, they may look back and wish they would have left Obamacare in place, with the specter of single-payer healthcare very much on the horizon.