February 26, 2020 | Updates

Democrats Continue To Sound Alarms On Medicare For All

WASHINGTON – As the negative consequences of one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems are made more clear, more and more Democrats are expressing real concerns over the political consequences of campaigning on the unaffordable new system.  Recently, “[f]ormer Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) spoke critically of Medicare-for-all ahead of the Nevada debate, telling ABC News he is ‘against’ the policy proposal he says has little chance of becoming law,” The Washington Post reports.   Reid exclaimed, “‘[i]t’s impractical … There’s not a chance in hell it would pass,’”  ABC News reports.  

Reid joins former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who also recently expressed his apprehension over the one-size-fits-all system stating, “I don’t see Medicare for All being a political reality anytime in the future,” according to U.S. News & World Report.  

Medicare for All “has taken a beating recently,” POLITICO reports, adding that the one-size-fits-all system has “come under sustained attack from centrist Democrats.”  The Hill reported that Democrats are giving Medicare for All “the cold shoulder,” citing the proposal’s “elimination of private insurance and its trillions of dollars in tax hikes.”  And The Washington Post reports that leading Democrats “have raised particular concern about [Senator Bernie] Sanders’s support for a Medicare-for-all plan, which would effectively eliminate private health insurance in the United States … The leading Democratic candidates running for the four most vulnerable Republican Senate seats — in Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Colorado — have all come out against Sanders’s signature health care plan, as have many House candidates.

As POLITICO adds, “centrists and pragmatists … are starting to hit the panic button.” 

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “I’m not a big fan of Medicare for All … I welcome the debate.  I think that we should have health care for all.  I think the affordable care benefit is better than the Medicare benefit.”
  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH): In swing-state Ohio, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, a liberal populist, has previously referred to Medicare for All as a “terrible mistake.”
  • Representative Ami Bera (D-CA): “We need to put out proposals that can actually make it into law … We should be proud as Democrats all of our candidates are talking about how to expand coverage, but I don’t see Medicare for All of getting anywhere close to 218 votes in the House and certainly not 60 votes in the Senate.”

These lawmakers join agrowing listof Democrats who have recently expressed concerns about calls for a new government-run health insurance system:

  • Appearing on CNBC in September, Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her fellow Democrats to focus on building and improving upon the ACA, rather than eliminating every American’s current coverage in order to start over with a one-size-fits-all Medicare for all system.  Pelosi said, “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.”
  • Writing for The New York Times, former high-ranking Obama Treasury official Steven Rattner warned of Medicare for All’s “daunting mountain of new taxes and fees.”  And appearing on MSNBC, Rattner added that “at the end of the day if you want to [implement Medicare for All], the middle class is going to have to contribute to it.”  Lawrence Summers, former director of the National Economic Council for President Obama, also warned about the unaffordable tax hikes American families would face under Medicare for All, writing in The Washington Post“no other country offers as broad coverage as Medicare-for-all would or claims to provide universal health insurance without taxing its middle class.” 
  • Voicing his own concerns over the elimination of Americans’ choice and control under a one-size-fits-all system, Ohio Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) said on CNN“Do you like what you have?  If you do, the federal government and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and others shouldn’t be coming into your home and saying you have to get on this other alternative government program.”  Meanwhile, David Pepper, Ohio’s Democratic Party chairman, also spoke out against one-size-fits-all government-controlled health insurance systems, “arguing that Medicare for All – and ultimately abolishing private health insurance plans – could turn off many voters here,” CNN reports.  
  • Appearing on ABC, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Medicare for All “an untenable position,” as it would “eliminate 150 million people’s health care.”  Earlier this year, President Barack Obama “warned a group of freshman House Democrats … about the costs associated with some one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems, encouraging members to look at price tags” in what was widely seen as “a cautionary note about Medicare-for-all,” The Washington Post reported.  And former top Obama administration official Gene Sperling encouraged Democrats “to focus on your end goal, which is affordable health care … Don’t get locked into my way or the highway on how to get there.”
  • Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), cautioned that a nominee who embraces a one-size-fits-all system “may hurt the party in the general election,” the Washington Examiner reported.  
  • VICE News reports that former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid “was blunt when asked if he thought supporting Medicare for All would be problematic in the 2020 general election.  ‘Of course it would be,’ he said.  ‘How are you going to get it passed?’”
  • Meanwhile former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman added that while “Medicare-for-all sounds good as a slogan – it will cost an enormous amount of money.  Bernie Sanders himself said everybody’s taxes, including the middle class, will go up … Don’t do something so big that it will turn against them next year. 
  • Previously, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos said to The Hill  that “the $33 trillion price tag for Medicare for all is a little scary,” adding “it’s just hard to conceive how that would work,” a sentiment she later doubled down on in an interview with CNN. 
  • And The Washington Examiner notes that “Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, also has drawn attention to the cost” of Medicare for all.

Meanwhile, as some proponents try to paint other new government-controlled health insurance systems – such as the public option and Medicare buy-in – as “moderate” proposals, these would ultimately lead to the same one-size-fits-all system overtime.  The New York Times reported recently that the public option “could be plenty disruptive” and “tilt in the same direction” as Medicare for All.  And, as Eric Levitz of New York Magazine writesthe public option “would not allow all Americans to ‘keep their private insurance if they prefer it’” and “would guarantee massive disruptions to private coverage.”

poll from Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center finds that “[i]mproving the current health-care system received the most support among voters, far more than repealing Obamacare or adopting ‘Medicare-for-All,” Bloomberg reports.  And the second edition of Voter Vitals – a tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states by Locust Street Group for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future – which finds that “as voters learn more about new government-run health care proposals, support for them is declining with a majority of voters preferring to build on and improve what we have today rather than start over with Medicare for All or the public option.” 


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