Democrats are still reeling from their historic electoral losses during the Obama era, particularly the loss of the White House in 2016. They now appear to be increasingly coalescing behind single-payer as part of their “get back in power” strategy.
Socialist senator and failed Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) peddled his inconceivably expensive “Medicare for all” throughout the 2016 presidential primaries. Sanders himself refuses to address pesky questions about the cost or real-world viability of his socialist pipe-dream, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from seizing on the idea.
Back in June, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stated that single-payer was the way to go, that “the progressive agenda is America’s agenda.” More recently, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Warren have announced that they either support or are co-sponsoring Sanders’ latest single-payer bill. The bill is set to be released on September 13th.
Sanders has been introducing single-payer bills since he won his first Congressional seat as the at-large House representative for Vermont in 1990. His first single-payer bill was introduced in the House in 1991: National Health Care and Cost Containment Act.
With Congress and the White House currently in GOP hands, his latest bill is almost certainly dead-in-the-water, but Democrats are eager to signal their intentions ahead of 2020 and with the hope of winning back Congressional seats in 2018.
Eight years ago, as a once-in-a-generation Democratic Senate supermajority debated health care reform, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., kept their focus narrow. As the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus was focused on passing a reform bill that moderate Republicans could support. At one point, he had single-payer health care supporters removed from a hearing; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an advocate for Canada-style universal coverage, set up a meeting to tide them over. But he did not expect much from Baucus.
“[Is he open] to single-payer?” Sanders asked rhetorically. “Not in a million years.”
His estimate was just 999,999,993 years off. At a Thursday night forum in his home state, a now-retired Baucus suggested that single-payer health care could pass, and not too long from now.
“My personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer,” Baucus said, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “I think we should have hearings. . . we’re getting there. It’s going to happen.”
Harris, seen as a potential 2020 Democrat presidential candidate, announced that she will co-sponsor Bernie’s latest single-payer effort.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a star of the Democrats’ 2016 class who’s seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, told an audience in Oakland Wednesday that she would co-sponsor the “Medicare for All” bill that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is introducing in September.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Harris said at the end of a town hall meeting, after a standing ovation. “It is so much better that people have meaningful access to health care, from birth through the rest of their lives. The alternative is that we, as taxpayers, are spending huge amounts of money to send them to emergency rooms.”
Murphy is being somewhat more circumspect in his support for single-payer, signalling that he wants single-payer but thinks it best to move in that direction more slowly.
While Bernie Sanders readies a single-payer health care bill that the GOP is itching to attack, one of his Democratic colleagues is proposing a step toward that goal that could give cover to the party’s vulnerable incumbents.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a potential presidential contender, is working on legislation expected this fall that would let every individual and business buy into Medicare as part of Obamacare’s exchanges. As Sanders and other potential challengers to President Donald Trump flock to “Medicare for all,” embracing a top liberal priority before 2020, Murphy is taking a conspicuously more pragmatic approach designed to get Democrats closer to that lofty but potentially unobtainable goal.
Warren, like Harris, is co-sponsoring Bernie’s bill.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Thursday that she will co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill, becoming the latest potential 2020 hopeful to sign onto the policy, a favorite of progressives.
“I believe it’s time to take a step back and ask: what is the best way to deliver high quality, low cost health care to all Americans? Everything should be on the table — and that’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month,” she wrote in a post on her website.
In the lengthy entry, Warren detailed her decision for her supporters, drawing on her own experiences as part of her reason for co-sponsoring the legislation.
“My own family plunged deep into debt when my daddy had a heart attack. My parents paid on those bills for years,” she wrote. “Years later, as a bankruptcy law professor, I studied why working families were going broke. Through interviews and court documents, my research partners and I showed that most people who file for bankruptcy looked a lot like my family.”
“Medicare for All is one way that we can give every single person in the country access to high quality health care. Everyone is covered. Nobody goes broke paying a medical bill. Families don’t have to bear the costs of heartbreaking medical disasters on their own,” she concluded.
These are not the only prominent Democrats interested in single-payer; others include Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). This shift in the Democrats’ agenda is noted as “stunning” by progressive outlet Vox.
In their article, “The stunning Democratic shift on single-payer,” Vox writes:
For a bill that does not exist yet and whose details are not public, Bernie Sanders’s new single-payer health care bill sure is popular. First, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her plans to co-sponsor it; then Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined in. According to reporting by my Vox colleague Jeff Stein, Cory Booker (D-NJ) has staff working with Sanders and others on formulating the bill.
Warren, Sanders, Harris, and Booker are arguably the most famous and most-admired Democratic senators in the country among the party’s base; the betting markets give a 55 percent chance that one of them will be the 2020 nominee for president.
Other contenders are getting on board with single-payer — or “Medicare for all,” where the federal government would provide health insurance for every American financed through taxes — as well. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) declared, “We should have Medicare for all,” at a rally against Republican attempts to roll back Obamacare. Meanwhile 117 House Democrats (over 60 percent of the caucus) have co-sponsored HR 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act offered every Congress by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).
. . . . And the way things are going, soon no Democratic leader will be able to oppose single-payer.
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