A Question For The Progressive Purists – Do You Know What You Want?

The 2018 mid-terms saw the Democratic Party take back control of the House of Representatives.  Among the new representatives are a group who have been pushing a more liberal agenda.    That’s not a bad thing, but their supporters have a bad habit, egged on by the “professional left.”  That is, much like various of the Tea Party on the Right, they’re enamored of catchy slogans than actual nuts-and-bolts policy.   When asked what they think the phrase they’re using means, they come up with a wide variety of answers.  That’s rather difficult to put into legislation, but in one case, it turns out that they don’t understand what they’re asking for.

I’m going to wave my magic wand, assume absolute control of the government, and pass a program for the country.  Everyone in the country will be covered by a single payer healthcare plan.   But, it won’t complete coverage.  There are going to be annual deductibles, there’s going to be co-pays, and limits on the amount of care.  It also won’t cover every aspect of basic healthcare though.  If you want outpatient and preventative care, dental, vision, and pharmacy coverages,  you’re going to need to purchase supplemental insurance policies (yes, plural).  Those will also come with annual deductibles and co-pays.    You’re not going to be able to skip out on those supplemental policies, you have to purchase them.

Anyone want to guess what the purity left would do if I were to do that?  If Congress and the Administration passed a law like that?  It’s not hard to guess, really.  They’d scream their heads off.  They wanted “single payer health insurance,” not that!  How could anyone want a bill that forces people to pay for insurance for basic preventative healthcare, why would you force them to have so many limits and out of pocket expenses?  They’d be baying for the heads of every member of Congress who dared to vote for it.

But here’s the thing about that healthcare plan I’m talking about.  It’s Medicare.  It’s what they’re asking for when they say they want “Medicare for all.”    They would be screaming about getting exactly what they said they wanted.   Over the past couple of years, I’ve had more than a few opportunities to ask various advocates what they mean by “Medicare for all.”   While there’s a lot of variation in the specifics, there’s one commonality – what they’re talking about is not what Medicare is.  The  government single payer program that more closely resembles what they want is Medicaid.  But that’s not what they’re asking for.

It’s easy to chant a catchy slogan, or tweet a hashtag.   But what you’re advocating for with that slogan may not be what you actually want.  Slogans have their place, but they make for lousy legislation and programs.   There’s an old, old saying about being careful of what you wish for – you might just get it.  So  here’s my questions to the purity faction: You say you want “Medicare for all.”  Are you sure that’s what you really want?   Do you really understand what you’re asking for?  From all evidence to date, the answer is “No,” and that means you’re going to be disappointed – no matter what.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “A Question For The Progressive Purists – Do You Know What You Want?

  1. dbtheonly

    In my neck of the woods a few Doctors have refused to take on Medicare Patients as Medicare doesn’t pay enough.

    Of course asking Doctors,with 6 figure student loan debt, to take on more low paying Patirnts is also a losing proposition.

    And we can talk about the expenses of operating a Doctor’s Office, equipment & personnel.

    But mostly the TPL is as prone as the TPR to assume the slogan is the solution.

  2. Linda Medin

    I have Medicare and like it. I’m also in a big city and access is not a problem. My supplemental covers vision, dental and prescriptions. There are no networks I have to stay in. That said, I am with you on the slogans and the lack of understanding of the details of health insurance. It’s very complex and the details matter. Employer plans are sometimes much worse. My son with employer insurance pays more for his premiums and the out of pocket for their new baby was $7,000. The cost of health care needs to be addressed overall.

    • I don’t disagree with the needs to control costs, and the need for universal healthcare coverage. It’s just that every time I talk to some of the purity people – particularly the younger ones – who are screaming about Medicare for all, it turns out that what they’re talking about does not bear much to resemblance to what Medicare is.

      • From my perspective as a Canadian, what the Purity Left want is our healthcare system we have here in Canada, but our system has the same little add-ons mentioned by you (dental has to be paid seperately , as does eye care and anything else not covered by OHIP [Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the provincial health care plan that covers Ontario.]) And what we have here in Canada took years to set up, it wasn’t passed into law nationwide ‘just like that’. The same most likely applies to other countries that have our system or England’s.

        • They really don’t know what they want. Ask them to point out a “model country” and it goes all over the world, and most of the time, the country their pointing to (including yours) doesn’t have what they’re talking about. Outside of “tax the rich,” they don’t have any idea of how their going to pay for it.

  3. MaryAnn Betts

    Well said. I have tried to say it a few times on Twitter. It makes me angry that people want candidates to pledge Medicare for all. To do so they are either ignorant or willing to mislead for a catchy slogan. Either way it won’t end well.

  4. Carlata Sonata

    Just today I inadvertently got into a conversation with someone who – before we were through – said single payer isn’t single payer. I’d asserted that a robust system of insurances of several types would serve best (she having quoted Hillary Clinton saying single payer will never happen, like that’s a bad thing), and she said, Oh yes, of course, other countries have that. I suggested that words have designated meanings, and I insisted on her use of them when talking to me. Silence.

    As a new Medicare user, it ain’t that great. It’s better than nothing, it’s probably better than many people have ever had, and I can afford additonal coverage. But I know better than to ask – let alone demand – what I really want, because I’d be laughed out of school: HEALTH care, and not just medical care. That would mean revamping medical schools, for starters, and we’re just talking about the delivery system.

    • Having had these arguments for the past 10 years, what I found is that most of the “Medicare 4 All!” group can’t define exactly what they want, how they’re going to implement it, and pay for it. Which makes for crappy legislation. It’s magical thinking.

      • Carlata Sonata

        And my response to that is: An idea is not a plan. Where’s your plan?

        • At which point they call me a “ConservaDem” or stomp off because I don’t see the beauty of it all. Also, apparently, I can’t read minds to see what they aren’t articulating.

    • Mary Lynne Foster

      They treat universal health care and M4A as interchangeable