Harris’s rollout Monday was met with swift criticism from both the Biden camp, which called it “A Bernie Sanders-lite Medicare for All,” and the Sanders camp, which insists Harris “can’t call [her] plan Medicare for All.”
In saying this, the Sanders campaign is effectively trying to lay a copyright claim to Medicare-for-all, as if it, and only it, can define what it means. The reality is far less clear — and depending on your perspective, it could be Harris’s proposal that is more justified in claiming the Medicare-for-all branding.
I'm not going to overquote my own piece, but this has led to some backlash against me, so for the record:
At the time, I noted that besides both bills including many "wish list" items which I've been hoping would be added to the ACA for several years now, Warren's Senate CHIPA bill was also noteworthy for one other reason: The list of cosponsors:
...Sanders is actually a co-sponsor of the Warren bill, as are Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.).
My main point was that while most MFA activists have long insisted that eliminating (or virtually eliminating) private health insurance companies is not only a feature but the entire point of moving to single payer, ever since Kamala Harris walked back her “get rid of all that!” comment in a CNN Town Hall the next day, I’ve seen some MFA activists fall all over themselves to suddenly insist that “no, no...there’d still be plenty of room for private insurance, really!”
In September 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his "official" Medicare for All, universal single payer bill to much fanfare. At the time, it garnered a lot of attention, but it also had some gaping holes...most notably the lack of any actual funding mechanism or specifics, as well as a big coverage gap which could be found in both the "Medicare for America" bill which I'm a big fan of as well as the House MFA version.
Today, Sanders launched a revised version of the bill which supposedly addresses both of those issues along with others. Let's take a look.
First of all, who's co-sponsoring it? In 2017, it was cosponsored by 16 Democratic Senators:
Mr. Sanders (for himself, Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Booker, Mr. Franken, Mrs. Gillibrand, Ms. Harris, Mr. Heinrich, Ms. Hirono, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Markey, Mr. Merkley, Mr.Schatz, Mrs. Shaheen, Mr. Udall, Ms. Warren, and Mr. Whitehouse) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance
Most people know that over the past three years, I've gone from being a fan of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to...well, not being a fan; let's just leave it at that. They also know that while I support an eventual move towards a single payer-based healthcare system, I simply feel that it will have to be achieved via incremental steps (preferably large steps, not baby ones).
I addressed this point at the time in response to earlier attacks on me by MFA purists:
I need to take a moment here to call out progressives who badmouthed and scolded me last week for promoting the House ACA 2.0 bill by insisting that ONLY Bernie's M4A bill will do, and ANYTHING short of that--even in the short term--is unacceptable.
Yesterday I posted an entry which gained some attention in which I noted that yes, Bernie Sanders' specific single payer bill (aka "Medicare for All", S.1804) would in fact eliminate "nearly all" private healthcare insurance...and in fact, that's one of the primary selling points of the legislation in the first place. I wasn't arguing for or against the bill, mind you, I was just asking supporters to stop misleading people about this point.
Note: I'm going to use "Bernie-MFA" going forward instead of just "MFA" because the term "Medicare for All" has been turned into some sort of catch-all rallying cry for universal coverage even though there are major differences between some of the bills and proposals on the table, and on this subject it's important to be clear about which bill I'm talking about.
OK, here it is. I've linked to a PDF with the full legislative text at the bottom of this blog entry; here's the summary version, with some notes:
TITLE I—ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNIVERSAL MEDICARE PROGRAM
Establishes a Universal Medicare Program for every resident of the United States, including the District of Columbia and the territories. Guarantees patients the freedom to choose their health care provider. Provides for the issuance of Universal Medicare cards that all residents may use to get the health care they need upon enrollment. Prohibits discrimination against anyone seeking benefits under this act.
OK, so it apparently would cover undocumented immigrants, and every doctor/hospital/clinic/etc. would be required to participate, with anyone in the country being covered by any healthcare provider nationally.
UPDATE: I've expanded the second half of this entry.
A week or so ago, I took a good look at Bernie Sanders's Single Payer healthcare proposal and was, as I put it, "beyond disappointed" due to it's lack of detail, and naiveté about not only the political realities of trying to get such a plan through (which is the biggest issue that Sanders supporters insist can be overcome through a "political revolution" etc etc), but also due to the sheer mountain of legal, economic, infrastructure and logistical headaches that would have to be navigated.
The irony is that, for me, the math behind such a plan (ie, how much it would end up saving people overall in terms of actual dollar savings as well as reduced administrative overhead, greater efficiency, etc) was something which I didn't even get into. I was operating on the assumption that, while the specifics would obviously jump up and down here and there, the numbers were generally in the right ballpark. HOWEVER, according to Emory University expert Kenneth Thorpe (who's actually a strong single-payer advocate who has authored several SP plans himself), that may not be the case whatsoever. Dylan Matthews of Vox writes:
I've been debating (pun intended!) how to handle the ongoing 2016 Presidential primary season when it comes to the ACA. While the ACA has barely come up at all in either of the first 2 GOP debates, it's almost certainly going to start popping up sooner or later (and I'll be stunned if it isn't a major topic at the Democratic debates).
I'm gonna try doing an occasional "Candidate Roundup" with the latest ACA-related happenings when it comes to the various candidates...and there have been three major developments this week: