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.