WASHINGTON – As Democratic presidential hopefuls struggle to explain their support for a costly one-size-fits-all health care system, The Washington Post reports that by “veer[ing] left,” they are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”
Last year’s midterm strategy focused on what party leaders viewed as a sensibly moderate message designed to attract centrist voters. In that campaign, Democratic congressional candidates … blasted Republican plans to take away federal protections for preexisting conditions in private insurance. But many of the leading Democratic presidential candidates are running on a Medicare-for-all plan that would replace private insurance entirely for most Americans and raise middle class taxes to pay for it … Democratic strategists from the 2018 campaign agree there is a danger … “I wonder if we’re solving a problem that is not there and spending the vast majority of our political capital on it,” said Obama’s former campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt, who is unaffiliated in the 2020 race. “Expanding upon and improving Obamacare accomplishes the vast majority of goals that Democrats are looking for.”
At the ballot box last fall, very few winning candidates in the House seats that delivered Democrats the majority endorsed Medicare for all proposals. A “majority of those who flipped their seats from red to blue focused on strengthening the 2010 health care law and protecting coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions,” Roll Call reports, noting the significant “risks for any politician that proposes dramatic change and uncertainty in a system that is central to Americans’ well-being.”
A new CNN poll finds that “just 21% say they favor national health insurance and that it should completely replace private health insurance. Among potential Democratic voters, just 30% feel that way.” And recent national polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that most Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents “say they want Democrats in Congress to focus their efforts on improving and protecting the ACA,” while previous national polling by Kaiser found that “net favorability [for Medicare for all] drops as low as -44 percentage points when people hear the argument that this would lead to delays in some people getting some medical tests and treatments. Net favorability is also negative if people hear it would threaten the current Medicare program (-28 percentage points), require most Americans to pay more in taxes (-23 percentage points), or eliminate private health insurance companies (-21 percentage points).”
This helps explain why, as The Hill reports, “[c]entrist Democrats who helped their party win back the House majority with victories in key swing districts last fall are sounding the alarm that the liberal push for ‘Medicare for all’ could haunt them as they try to defend their seats and keep control of the House.”
“None of the people that were able to win in tough districts in 2018 ran on Medicare-for-all, and the reason is that they can’t,” Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way explained to CNN. “People in those districts don’t support it.” As one Democratic strategist put it to The New York Times: “Most of the freshmen who helped take back the House got elected on: ‘We’re going to protect your health insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition,’ not ‘We’re going to take this whole system and throw it out the window.’”
And party leaders appear to understand the risks as well. “The ‘Medicare for All’ push is hitting serious obstacles in the U.S. House in the face of resistance from Democratic leaders concerned that replacing the private insurance system would generate backlash from voters who like their coverage,” and “the effort appears unlikely to go much further” as the legislation “hasn’t gained much support since its release in February,” Bloomberg reports. POLITICO reports that “House Democratic leaders … worry Medicare for All could hurt the party with moderate voters,” while The Washington Post reports that many Democratic leaders are concerned that these proposals “require middle class tax hikes that will prove hurtful for economic growth and the party’s political fortunes.”
Meanwhile, as some candidates and elected officials tout so-called “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for all – such as “buy-in” and “public option” schemes – it was acknowledged on the Democratic debate stage that these new government insurance systems are designed to produce the same result: a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system, and as such would ultimately lead to the same high costs, unaffordable tax increases, and threats to Americans’ access to quality health care.