Far left Senator Elizabeth Warren was on the stump this weekend saying that Democrats need to run on the promise of single payer healthcare. At one time, I would have welcomed the Democrats campaigning on that. Now I fear it, because as bad an idea as I still think single payer is, it is at least an idea. Bad ideas win when opposed by no ideas. Neither President Trump nor Republicans in Congress have come up with anything resembling an idea for fixing the healthcare system.
“President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”
Polling has shown government-provided health care to be a very popular notion among Americans. Depending on whether it’s described as a public option, Medicare for all, or federally funded universal health care, proposals are supported by 57 to 61 percent of Americans, compared with only 19 to 24 percent opposed.
Government run health care is an attractive notion to the millennial Bernie bots who want everything provided for them free of charge, but it’s going to keep becoming attractive to more and more people as long as feckless Republicans fail to offer a serious free market health care alternative. The idea that Obamcare is a “conservative model” is of course a lie, but so was “if you like your plan you can keep your plan.” Truth no longer matters in politics.
“The progressive agenda is America’s agenda,” she said. “It’s not like we’re trying to sell stuff that people don’t want … It’s not that at all. It’s that we haven’t gotten up there and been as clear about our values as we should be, or as clear and concrete about how we’re going to get there.”
The irony of it all is that people on the Left love to resist the notion of anyone from the government intruding on their “right to choose” what they do with their own bodies, but they’re lining up to let the government make all their healthcare decisions for them. People will freak out over the idea that the NSA might listen to one of their phone calls or read their emails, but they will embrace the idea of letting the government decide whether their lives are worth the price of medical treatment.
The healthcare debate has become almost entirely irrational. The people who mocked Sarah Palin for talking about “death panels” are now routinely addressing Republican proposals in terms of literal body counts. A group of unelected people deciding whether people’s lives are worth the cost of treatments and procedures wasn’t a “death panel” but now suddenly the Congressional Budget Office is considered infallible for determining the cost in lives for proposed insurance legislation.
In that sort of confusion, people will gravitate to whatever idea has the best marketing. If things continue as they are now, that idea will be single payer. The idea that if you need healthcare the government will give it to you is an attractive one for people who don’t consider unintended consequences. Economist Milton Friedman rightly said, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” A single payer system will crush innovation, cause talented people not to choose the medical field, and lead to rationing no matter how Congress pencil-whips it with their legalese.
Single payer will be a disaster but any argument saying so will be dispatched with the question, “What’s your alternative?” because Republicans have no alternatives other than minor variations on the Obamacare theme.
Donald Trump lamely promising “really really great care” and strong arming conservatives to vote for bills he doesn’t understand will get us nowhere. Neither will trying to please everyone by trying to “repeal” Obamacare and keep it at the same time.
If Republicans don’t embrace ideas like the ones being proposed by Senator Rand Paul or the ones that Dr. Ben Carson expressed to President Obama at that prayer breakfast that launched him into the political spotlight, then we will have single payer. Everything from electing Trump to the terrible proposals from the House and Senate has moved us closer to that eventuality. Trump has spoken favorably of single payer on numerous occasions. He can’t even pretend to lead on this issue. He is as likely to sign off on single payer as anything else that might hit his desk.
Unless someone among the Republicans begins to show some actual leadership on this issue, single payer is inevitable.