By Alex Rogers, Manu Raju and Elizabeth Landers
CNN, January 30, 2013
The emerging 2020 presidential campaign has deepened the Democratic party’s divide over how the government should cover all Americans, further exposing the differences between those who want a total overhaul of the health care system and those who prefer a more incremental approach to fix it.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California renewed the party’s debate over single-payer health care in a CNN town hall Monday, saying she’s willing to end private insurance, which more than 170 million Americans use.
“It would take a mighty transition to move from where we are to that,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democratic senator in leadership.
“What most of us said we would support is a Medicare type plan — a not-for-profit public plan that is available for everyone,” said Durbin of Illinois. “I think that’s a good first step.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, claimed that “about 80%” of those who get insurance through their employers like their private insurance plan.
“I’m not going to say you have to give it up,” Kaine said. “I think the idea is to offer a nonprofit insurance plan as an option.”
Of eliminating private health insurance, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Harris’ senior Democratic colleague from California, said, “Well I’m not there.”
Sen. Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, said he believes lawmakers should expand the ability for people to buy into a version of Medicare, adding he’s a co-sponsor to a bill by Kaine and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado that would do just that. Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, plugged another bill that would expand access to Medicare, calling it “a lot more politically palatable and ultimately more popular than statutory prohibition of private plans.”
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Now that Medicare for All has become such a popular concept, many seem to believe that all we need to do is elect more Democratic senators and a Democratic president and we’re in. But if you listen carefully, most Democratic politicians give lip service to Medicare for All, but when you pin them down on policy they actually support a Medicare buy-in – a public option – and most of them support the continuation of offering the private Medicare Advantage plans. They also support allowing employers to offer their own private health plans. We are not even close to enactment of a bona fide Single Payer Medicare for All program.
Everyone needs to get busy perfecting their elevator speeches so we can explain why we must not allow private insurance plans to be options in our health care financing. If we were to allow them under Medicare for All, the entire single payer financing infrastructure crumbles, perpetuating an inefficient, fragmented financing system that impairs health care access, and often results in personal financial hardship. In contrast, a Single Payer Medicare for All program would ensure access and affordability for everyone. The secret? Saving hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing the profound administrative excesses of our fragmented, dysfunctional financing system, along with exercising the monopsonistic purchasing power of our own single public payer. See if you can convert that into elevator language.
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