Go big … and go home? Caught in a squeeze play between Bernie Sanders and fiscal reality, Democrats will have to choose whether to go The Full Socialist on health care and make single-payer their explicit agenda in the 2018 midterms. Politico’s Elana Schor reports that the progressive wing’s demand has party leadership and vulnerable incumbents trying their best to dodge disaster.
Hint: You never go The Full Socialist.
As Sanders prepares to unveil his Medicare for All legislation on Wednesday, most of the party’s congressional leaders and vulnerable Senate incumbents are steering clear. Even as the left celebrates Sanders’ ability to push the Democratic agenda leftward after his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton last year, that success appears to have its limits. …
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Tuesday became the single-payer bill’s first supporter from the class of Senate Democrats up for reelection next year in states Trump carried. But other politically imperiled incumbent Democrats have said no to Sanders.
Sen. Claire McCaskill said in a brief interview that lawmakers have more work to do to keep health care costs in check “before we would think about expanding that [Medicare] system to everyone.”
As one might imagine, Republicans are licking their chops at the prospect:
Republicans have already seized on the high costs of imposing a single-payer system — which Sanders’ presidential campaign proposed to pay for with new taxes on employers and wealthy individuals — to hammer Democrats for supporting the idea. The National Republican Senatorial Committee criticized Baldwin on Tuesday for backing “the left’s radical plans for government-run health care.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership, also reminded reporters Tuesday that Sanders’ home state of Vermont had to back away from its own single-payer health proposal after the economic burden proved too onerous.
Socialized medicine got rejected in more places than just Vermont. Colorado voters balked at it after discovering that it would cost more than their state budget too — and that it would drive costs upward continuously, forcing either higher taxes or sharper rationing of care. California’s state senate passed single-payer, but the assembly tabled it after no one could figure out how to get $400 billion a year to pay for it, which is more than twice the annual state budget.
During the 2016 primaries, Sanders’ campaign ended up choking on the cost estimate for Medicare for All, which his team put at $15 trillion over ten years. Others put the cost upward of twice that, and even that $32 trillion figure might be optimistic, given that California alone would cost $4 trillion over a decade and only represents 10% of the American populace.
This time, Bernie’s not even bothering to explain how he’d pay for it, but he is at least acknowledging that it’s not going to come in at the price he claimed during the campaign:
“Rather than give a detailed proposal about how we’re going to raise $3 trillion a year, we’d rather give the American people options,” Sanders said. “The truth is, embarrassingly, that on this enormously important issue, there has not been the kind of research and study that we need. You’ve got think tanks, in many cases funded by the drug companies and the insurance companies, telling us how terribly expensive it’s going to be. We have economists looking at it who are coming up with different numbers. ”
The Washington Post also notes that Sanders only has 15 Senate Democrats, about a third of the caucus, going The Full Socialist:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program with the backing of at least 15 Democratic senators — a record level of support for an idea that had been relegated to the fringes during the last Democratic presidency.
One-third of a caucus is still a fringe. It might not be as fringy as it has been in the past, but it’s not a mandate among Democrats either. It’s far less of a mainstream signature issue than abortion is among Democrats, which party leaders have described as a litmus test. Even Nancy Pelosi’s smart enough to know that going The Full Socialist on medical care is a loser, at least in the short term.
However, this does point out one very clear reality. What these Democrats propose would wipe out ObamaCare entirely. That’s the clearest sign that the party’s claim that ObamaCare works is utterly false. And if government intervention and top-down control in health insurance has failed, why would anyone want government to completely take over all care?