Medicare for All has been unpopular for the last 40 years – and it’s still just as unpopular. That’s the message from healthcare industry analyst Robert Laszewski.
Laszewski, in his Healthcare Marketplace and Policy Review, reminds us that President Jimmy Carter ran on a Medicare for All platform in 1976. But despite having Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, a filibuster-proof 61 seats in the Senate and an overwhelming 292 seats in the House, Carter was unable to convince his own party to approve Medicare for All.
The same thing happened in 1993 during the Clinton presidency. The Democrats then controlled majorities in both houses of Congress, 57 seats in the Senate and 258 in the House, but only about half of these were in favor of a single-payer healthcare system.
Fast forward to 2009 during the Obama administration. Though President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid all favored single-payer healthcare, they couldn’t convince a majority of their own party to proceed forward with a complete government takeover of healthcare. Instead, they pushed through the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), without a single Republican vote, as a compromise to their own party.
Laszewski says not much has changed today. As of September, 2019, only about half of the Democratic caucus (118) supports Medicare for All. The other half supports strengthening ObamaCare. The Democratic presidential candidates all seemed to favor Medicare for All in the early campaign debates but some are modifying their position lately to favor stronger support of ObamaCare.
However, new front-runner Elizabeth Warren still strongly supports Medicare for All as does its founder, Bernie Sanders. Only Joe Biden favors strengthening ObamaCare among the leading candidates.
Laszewski explains, “Maybe most telling, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently said, “God bless the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates putting forth Medicare for all proposals, but know what that entails. I believe the path to ‘health care for all’ is a path following the lead of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s use our energy to have health care for all Americans — and that involves over 150 million families that have it through the private sector.”
Pelosi is savvy enough to understand that eliminating private employer-provided healthcare for over 150 million Americans is a losing proposition.
Moreover, that proposal flies in the face of a major Democratic constituency – labor unions. It is a major function of labor unions to negotiate healthcare insurance benefits for employees with their major corporate employers. Eliminating private health insurance will eliminate a major reason for the existence of labor unions. If there is one thing that labor unions care more about than anything it is their continued existence.
Lastly, even The Washington Post, a major supporter of liberal and Democratic causes, believes Medicare for All is a big mistake. Here is an excerpt from a recent editorial:
“On the wildly unrealistic side is Mr. Sanders’s plan, which Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) also supports. Mr. Sanders would eliminate private insurance and enroll everyone in a government-run plan that is, in fact, far more generous than Medicare. Even if Americans wanted to give up their private insurance, Mr. Sanders’s plan to eliminate premiums, co-payments and other cost-sharing, while offering Americans a massive suite of free benefits, would either be unimaginably expensive or force unsustainably huge cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals. Mr. Sanders points to other countries with “single-payer” systems to prove that building one in the United States is possible. In fact, other nations are far less generous than what Mr. Sanders proposes.”
With Joe Biden dropping rapidly in the polls and others like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders rising, Democrats should be nervous about a presidential campaign platform that includes Medicare for All.