Howard Dean switches positions on single payer

Howard Dean, who was once a supporter of the single-payer health care system, has now come out and criticized Bernie Sanders’s plans to implement it via a Medicare for All program. Back in 2009 he called the idea of single-payer “by far the most economically efficient system.” So what changed? It’s the same old story. Dean now works for a lobbying firm that has as its clients major players in the heath care industry.

Lee Fang gives the background.

Incumbent health care interests, particularly drug companies and insurers, have long viewed single-payer as a threat to their business model. Health insurance lobbyist strategy memos that were leaked from a source to veteran journalist Bill Moyers reveal a sophisticated effort to undermine public support for single-payer policies and to discredit Michael Moore’s Sicko, a movie that sharply criticizes the inequities and price-gouging of the American health care system. One slide discusses the need to use town halls and special forums to shape the Democratic primary debates in 2008 and peel away support for the reforms proposed in Sicko, while another calls for pundits to appear on television and denounce Moore as harmful to the Democratic Party.

After Dean began working in the lobbying industry, he gave a talk about how to navigate the post-Citizens United campaign finance world. “I’ve advised a lot of clients in the industries that I usually end up working with, which are mostly health care industries, not to give any money to either side, or if you do, give it to both sides because politicians really don’t know much about the issues,” Dean said. “But they remember the ads, and they remember who was on whose side and who wasn’t, and it makes a big difference.”

This is why it is so important to follow the money, to see who is getting money from whom. The fact that Dean has also sold out is disappointing but not surprising.


  1. Holms says

    A shill is a shill. Was there any reason to expect that this man might be above that? I’m not familiar with him.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    If the insurance co.’s think they have a better system, fine. Let us have a choice between single-payer and whatever insurance plans they can come up with. Isn’t that the “Wisdom of the Free Market” that is so often touted as the only way to “Keep America Great!”?

    I became a registered Democrat because I wanted to vote for Dean in the California primary, but then he dropped out before I had the chance. I am seriously disappointed in him.

  3. doublereed says

    Howard Dean was very much the progressive candidate when he was involved. Then the establishment media and dnc did a vicious, petty, and nonstop attack on him focusing on his “Howard Scream” when we was getting people excited at a rally.

    I won’t pretend to know too much of his politics, but it’s still very sad to see someone like that fall.

  4. lorn says

    I would have much preferred to have a single-payer system in the US. I suspect that we are going to, after a whole lot of drama, end up there.

    That said, I think a lot of people are making light of exactly how difficult getting the ACA through actually was. It was a hard fought to the end and not a sure thing. Single-payer wouldn’t have made it. So we got the ACA. As a program it is a chimera of mismatched parts forced on it by people trying to destroy it that really don’t work very well together. Then again, it was still, as inefficient as it is, an improvement over the prior structure. It isn’t that the ACA is so good, it is about the prior system being so very bad for so many Americans.

    It also established and is a proof of concept that the government can by force of law establish a system that works better for the vast majority of people than the for-profit, free-market, self-assembled version. This is an embarrassment for the ‘market good/government bad’ crowd and this is the reason they want to go Dalek on it. It is also why the right has a perpetual hard-on for destroying the US Postal Service, it is a part of government that works. Government programs that work and are good for the nation disprove their central theses.

    As for Howard Dean selling out? The guy needed a job. It also has to be noted that his advice for them to stay out of politics or give equally, has served to encourage a potentially huge donor class, representing a sixth of the entire economy, from reflexively siding with the GOP. Some fights you win by facing off against your foe. Other fights you win by persuasion. It is also very good advice. Nobody likes their for-profit health insurance provider. Their blatant taking of sides could throw the whole thing in a direction that doesn’t favor their cause.

    The left has just recently regained some footing. If the health care and insurance industries went hard right the GOP might run the ticket. We could end up in a neo-feudal hell for a few years before slamming back the other way. This would be messy and ugly. Keeping them out of it means there are good odds the Democrats win the presidency, and gain a bit in the two houses. This sets up for a slower and much softer transition toward a system that looks more like England with a single-payer system backed up with a vanity private health insurance option.

    The end result is that while much reduced in size and importance for-profit health insurance survives (Meh, let them have their place in the sun), the vast majority get single payer (There was much rejoicing), and the progressives start to match the nation back to sanity and good government that works for the people ( A very good thing).

    Howard Dean, like most of us, is crooked timber.

    “Nobody ever gets Superman on a unicorn.
    All we ever get are deeply flawed humans to whom we assign an impossible job.
    Bur after history has moved on a step or two, sometimes we are wise enough to notice that occasionally we manage to put the right, flawed human into the right, impossible job at just the right time.”


    He is referencing Lincoln, and I don’t think Dean is up to that comparison, but still … maybe give Dean a break. He might have done the left more of a favor than he will ever get credit for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *