What scares the members of Congress who for decades have collected hefty donations from the insurance and health-care industries and then used their positions of public trust to sustain and protect profiteering by those industries?
The threat of a single-payer “Medicare for All” health-care system.
By replacing the bureaucratic profiteers with an efficient system that would guarantee care for every American—and fair compensation for doctors and nurses—single payer would not merely make health care more accessible and more affordable. It would also make politics more honest and responsive to the will of the people.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has, through the campaign committees and political action committees that he guides, collected millions of dollars from Wall Street interests, insurance interests, pharmaceutical interests, private hospital and nursing home interests, and “health products” interests over the course of a political career that has seen him go to the mat, again and again, in defense of Wall Street interests, insurance interests, pharmaceutical interests, private hospital and nursing home interests, and “health products” interests.
So is it any surprise that Ryan keeps trying to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with measures that benefit his crony-capitalist campaign funders?
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has, through the campaign committees and political-action committees that he guides, collected millions of dollars from Wall Street interests, insurance interests, pharmaceutical interests, private hospital and nursing home interests and “health products” interests over the course of a political career that has seen him go to the mat, again and again, in defense of Wall Street interests, insurance interests, pharmaceutical interests, private hospital and nursing home interests and “health products” interests.
So is it any surprise that McConnell keeps trying to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with measures that benefit his crony-capitalist campaign funders?
On this issue, as on so many others, Ryan and McConnell are robotic servants of their paymasters. They will keep coming up with ever-more-absurd schemes to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act—and to undermine Medicaid—even as doctors and nurses, pollsters, and even a few honest Republican governors tell them this is a very bad idea.
Unfortunately, very bad ideas never die in a corrupted political process. It’s all about bottom lines: for billionaire campaign donors and for the powerful recipients of those campaign donations.
Nothing so corrupts our politics—aside, perhaps, from the military-industrial complex—as the ability of health-care industry speculators, investors, and CEOs to buy the policies that favor the furious fleecing of patients and taxpayers that makes them millionaires and billionaires.
What we’ve got now is a process that empowers the masters of a campaign-finance system that former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) correctly describes as a mixture of “legalized bribery” and “legalized extortion.”
But what if, as in so many other countries, public servants organized an efficient, patient-centered health-care system? And what if, as in so many other countries, the government replaced the bureaucratic nightmare that sustains private-sector profiteering with a single-payer program for paying everyone’s health-care bills?
That’s what Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed, with legislation that has now attracted 16 cosponsors in the Senate. That’s what Michigan Congressman John Conyers has proposed, with legislation that has attracted 119 cosponsors in the House.
Reasonable people can debate whether single payer or some other well-defined and well-organized model for establishing a national health-care program is best.
But the politicians who are suddenly warning Americans about the “threat” that is supposedly posed by a Medicare-for-All system are not being reasonable. They are scared, and they are desperate. They see the polling in which, as the Pew Research Center notes, “the share saying health coverage is a government responsibility remains at its highest level in nearly a decade.” They know the Sanders plan has momentum at the national level. They know that state-based proposals, like the Healthy California Act that is backed by the California Nurses Association and a growing number of other groups, have gained traction.
This progress toward single payer unsettles bought-and-paid-for politicians. It threatens their campaign funding, and by extension their job security. And they are losing it.
The most recent attempt by McConnell’s Senate allies to overturn the ACA saw a frenzy of single-payer bashing.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a favorite of insider-the-Beltway lobbyists and the donors associated with them, was ranting about how his much-maligned “repeal and replace” legislation—which he had cosponsored with Republican senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin—was needed to “Stop BernieCare.”
“It’s either this or we’re going to Obamacare and Bernie-Care. Now, Bernie-Care is full-blown single-payer socialism,” claimed the angry South Carolinian. “This is not about repealing and replacing Obamacare. This is about stopping a march towards socialism. At the end of the day… this is the last best chance we will have to act and end Obamacare and stop Bernie-Care.”
“If we do nothing, Obamacare is the law of the land as far as the eye can see and we remain on that path of a single-payer system,” warned Wisconsin Senator Johnson, who claims that the Republican legislation would “[turn] funding back to those states, let them experiment. Even as Johnson promised flexibility, however, one of his Republican colleagues, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, moved to add language to the GOP legislation that would ban states like California from developing “Medicare for All” systems because: “I think a single-payer system is a bad idea.”
Single payer is a bad idea for senators whose political survival is based on their ability to bank checks from health-care profiteers and billionaire speculators. But it is a very good idea for America. The money power, and its feudal serfs in the Senate, will keep fighting against the common good.
The best answer to these Republican attacks on single payer is not to avoid talk of bold and necessary reform—as the most fretful Democrats now propose, along with their echo chamber in the media. Rather, the answer is to recognize that single payer frightens them for all the right reasons.
This is not a debate that should be avoided. It should be embraced—with relish. Reformers should speak bluntly about why single payer so frightens those who, for purposes of politics, would deny Americans necessary care.
Bernie Sanders recognizes this, as doDemocratic senators who are thinking seriously about how the Democratic Party must evolve—including Kamala Harris from California, Cory Booker from New Jersey, and Jeff Merkley from Oregon. There will always be naysayers. But Sanders offers the right response to them.
“Our opponents on this issue have the money and they have the power,” says Sanders. “But if billions of people across this country stand up, get involved in the political process and fight back, I have no doubt—none whatsoever—that this nation, sooner than people believe, will in fact pass a ‘Medicare for all’ single-payer system, and finally, finally, health care will be a right for all in the United States of America.”