Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wants “Medicare for All.” Can Republicans offer an alternative?

There was a time when I would just laugh off Democrats and Bernie Sanders stepping up their rhetoric in favor of full blown socialized medicine, aka single-payer health care.  Now, even with Republicans controlling the House, Senate and the White House, I’m not so sure there is a substantial bulwark against implementing European style government controlled health care in the United States.

What is there to protect Americans’ right to choose their own doctors and the type of insurance coverage that suits their needs best? Even with a majority in both houses, Republicans in Congress couldn’t manage to repeal the horribly botched Obamacare legislation they’ve been promising to get rid of for eight years. Trump  often talks about healthcare being broken and the need to fix it but he never offers specifics about what’s broken and what the fix needs to be. The President has provided no leadership beyond indicating that he’ll sign whatever Congress gives him just to claim the “win.”

The GOP doesn’t exactly inspire confidence these days and that may well make their majority short lived. If the Democrats retake control of one or both houses in 2018, they could pass single payer and it would be unrealistic to consider a Presidential veto guaranteed given that Trump has spoken approvingly of single payer systems in the past.

Health insurance is broken and if single payer is the only plan on the table the American people could rally behind it simply out of frustration. The CEO of Allergan PLC recently remarked that people could get behind something like single payer just because they are “fed up” with the political polarization

“I think we’ve got to do things to bring that trust back,” the executive added, “because ultimately, someone’s going to be in the White House. Somebody’s going to be in Congress. Someone’s going to be somewhere and going to have to say, ‘Enough’s enough. Let’s just change the whole system. Let’s go to one payer. Let’s do something.’”

While single payer has been discarded as a fringe, far-left idea over recent generations, the policy proposal has gained new traction in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Many in the Democratic Party are drifting to the ideas of Sanders and other progressives who have long advocated for expanding coverage by providing Medicare to all Americans.

Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” idea is a bad idea but in the absence of any other ideas bad ideas are often implemented. People are often easily convinced that pursuing a bad plan is superior to doing nothing at all. That is not necessarily true. A bad plan can make a problem worse rather than solving it.

Also, frustrated and angry people often rally behind bad ideas. After years of Republicans not governing according to the ideology on which they ran, Republican voters nominated a presidential candidate who—albeit loudly—espoused no ideology at all.

I think we’re on a long glide path toward socialized medicine unless the Republican Party steps up and provides not only a clear, unified vision for free market based health care but also displays the political courage to pass it even if it means some of them losing their seats. As long as reelection is placed above doing what’s right, that seems unlikely. I hope I’m wrong.