One sign that Bernie Sanders’s single-payer health care plan is more substantial than earlier efforts is the quick and angry response of the parasitic health industry. They seem to be fearful that this movement might gain steam and are seeking to nip it in the bud. The major health insurance companies are already out with strong statements.
“Whether it’s called single-payer or Medicare for All, government-controlled health care cannot work,” David Merritt, vice president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobbying group for health insurance companies, said in a statement to reporters.
The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, another insurance lobby group, released a statement declaring that it “adamantly opposes the creation of a single-payer regime, and our guard is up on these efforts.” The release cited the rising popularity of single-payer proposals in California, New York, and Colorado, and now Sanders’s effort in Congress.
“These are worrisome developments, and the increased volume on single-payer is setting off alarms on what Democratic priorities could represent following seven years of failed ACA repeal efforts,” the CIAB statement noted.
There are a number of former congresspersons who are now part of the industry lobby. This is how the lobby has always worked, buying off congresspersons and their staffs.
Former Rep. Bruce Morrison, the Connecticut Democrat who left Congress and is now a lobbyist for the American Hospital Association, dismissed the plan as doing too much to disrupt employer-based coverage.
A similar argument was made by former Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, who lost his seat and is also now lobbying for a number of health care interests, including health insurance firm Aetna and drugmaker Novo Nordisk.
This group is following the same tactic that has been followed by groups opposed to any change in the status quo. They build up fear and uncertainty because the psychology of people is that when they are not sure of what to do, fear of the unknown tends to make them want to keep whatever they already have. (Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway documented this with a whole range of issues in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt and the subsequent 2014 documentary of the same name, both of which I reviewed here.) The targets of the opposition blitz are people who already have health care from their place of employment and thus fear that the single-payer system may not be as good as what they have now.
But that argument may not work as well as it did in the past since employer-provided plans are getting more expensive and providing less features due to employers seeking to cut costs. Also, we now live in an age where people feel that their employment status is pretty fragile with little or no long-term security. Any day they may be laid off .
Matt Taibbi suggests that Donald Trump may be the biggest asset to single payer movement this time around
In the pre-Trump universe, a Medicare-for-all bill would have had no chance of passage. But now that the hated Trump has come out against it, and moreover since Democrats were forced to argue during the Trumpcare debate that leaving people uncovered is morally untenable and even murderous, single-payer suddenly has wheels.
The ironies here are myriad: Donald Trump, a onetime single-payer supporter who even as a candidate raged against the obvious stupidity of our health care system and repeatedly bashed the artificial subsidies enjoyed by insurance and pharmaceutical companies, is now the best friend single-payer advocates have got. The more Trump hates on the plan, the more politically realistic it will become.
The next generation of Democratic voters wants most of the same things people in other Western democracies take for granted. They want health care, a decent wage, free higher education, an end to abusive policing, and a few other things.
A candidate who ran on a platform of universal health care, free higher education and a fair minimum wage, and didn’t act like these ideas were something to be embarrassed about, would probably breeze to the nomination.
Let’s hope so that Taibbi is right. But there is no question that this is going to be a bitter struggle. Trump and the Republicans are already trying to sabotage or eliminate Obamacare, a program that was designed from the beginning to be favorable to the health insurance industry. If they succeed, the large group of people badly affected by its undermining are more likely to shift to support single-payer, so the dynamics are going to be complex.