By Russell Mokhiber for Single Payer Action
Right before our eyes, we are seeing the transformation of single payer Bernie Sanders into public option Howard Dean.
During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Sanders took off like a rocket, fueled by the promise of a single payer, Medicare for All single payer system.
His single payer plan paralleled HR 676, the single payer bill in the House of Representatives that now has 72 co-sponsors.
It would deliver one public payer, no deductibles, no co-pays, lower costs, everyone in, nobody out, no more medical bankruptcies, no more deaths from lack of health insurance and free choice of doctors and hospitals.
That was the promise of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign.
But since then, Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.
Then become part of Senator Chuck Schumer’s Senate Democratic leadership.
And this weekend, Sanders has been telling people he will introduce health care reform legislation in the Senate within a couple of weeks.
But it’s not going to be a companion bill to HR 676.
Instead, Sanders is telling reporters he wants to “move toward Medicare for all.”
“Right now we need to improve the Affordable Care Act and that means a public option,” Sanders tweeted yesterday.
The public option?
That would be the plan put forth by the Democratic corporatist Howard Dean, currently a member of the public policy and regulation practice of Denton’s, the multinational corporate law firm.
Dean got into nasty confrontations with single payer activists who confronted him during the Obamacare debates with questions about his corporatist connections and his support of the public option over single payer.
Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Program, the premiere single payer health care group in the country, has argued persuasively that the public option — allowing Americans to opt into a public plan — would not solve our healthcare crisis.
“The tragedy is not so much that on this path we will end up with a public plan that will be only one more feeble player in the dysfunctional market of private plans, but rather that we will, once again, have walked away from single payer, perhaps for decades, because of this meme about lack of political feasibility,” McCanne wrote last year. “Instead of making private plans compete with a public option, we should get rid of them and establish our own single public plan.”
And PNHP, in a paper titled The Public Plan Option: Myths and Facts, says that
“the current Medicare experience combined with experience in many different states that have tried this type of reform shows that public plans are left with the sickest patients and fail due to rising costs while the private insurers continue to collect premiums from the healthiest patients and maintain their high profits.”
Sanders also told reporters this weekend that he would consider legislation that would drop the Medicare age from 65 to 55.
David Himmelstein, a PNHP founder, said that while the public option would be a “modest improvement” and dropping the Medicare age to 55 would be a “good step,” “neither could realize most of the vast savings on administration available under single payer, nor would they achieve universal coverage or address the problems of the tens of millions who are currently underinsured.”
“Introducing a public option will divide and confuse supporters of Medicare for all,” said Margaret Flowers, MD a pediatrician who co-directs Health Over Profit for Everyone, www.HealthOverProfit.org. Flowers is also a member of PNHP. “Senators who should co-sponsor Medicare for all will be divided. Sanders seems to be urging a public option to please the Democratic Party, but Sanders cannot serve two masters – Wall Street’s Chuck Schumer and the people. Sanders must decide whom he is working for.”
“While it might seem politically pragmatic to support a public option, it is not realistically pragmatic because a public option will not work,” Dr. Flowers said. “Senator Sanders knows that and he knows that the smallest step toward solving the healthcare crisis is National Improved Medicare for All. This would fundamentally change our health system that currently treats health as a commodity so that people only have access to what they can afford to a system that treats health as a public necessity so that people have access to what they need. Medicare for all achieves the savings needed to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone.”
“If Senator Sanders believes that it is acceptable to promote a policy that leaves some people out, then we want to know who should be left out. The US is already spending enough to cover everyone and that’s what we need to do.”
“The Affordable Care Act, built on a heavily subsidized private insurance industry, is not possible to fix. The ACA must be replaced by a national health policy that serves the needs of the people by replacing private insurance with publicly-financed Medicare.”
“Sanders wants to lower drug prices,” Dr. Flowers said. “Only a single payer system can negotiate lower drug prices. Sanders says healthcare is a human right, but human rights should not be commodities or profit centers. People do not pay for their human rights.”
“We look to Senator Sanders to act on what he promised during his presidential campaign, a National Improved Medicare for All now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. It is not up to him to decide if single payer can pass in Congress. That task is for the people to decide.”