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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Who’s Definining UHC?

Having just done two adulatory posts about articles in The Washington Monthly, and planning another for tomorrow, I guess it’s a matter of balance to take serious issue with the Monthly’s blog, Political Animal, wherein Kevin Drum just posted a petulant and abusive attack on the Progressive Policy Institute’s proposal for universal health coverage.All you really need to know about Kevin’s point of view is this statement about the PPI proposal:

[I]t’s far too timid about at least acknowledging that our eventual goal should be a full-fledged, single-payer national healthcare system.

Well, hell, Kevin, if that’s the case, I would agree with you that the PPI plan is too complicated, too compromising, too infeasible, etc., etc. Sure, PPI proposes one very simple idea–making the federal employee health plan a national model–but if the only definition of “universal health care” is to abolish private health insurance and cover everyone publicly, then obviously, anything short of that earns all those abusive adjectives. But I somehow missed the moment when single-payer became not only progressive orthodoxy, but the only way to achieve universal coverage. As recently as 2004, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Wesley Clark, and Joe Lieberman offered health care plans that would take the country pretty damn close to UHC without embracing a single-payer system at all. I’m not sure any of those plans could have been described in the seven points you consider so incredibly complex. Were they all compromising wimps? Did they all privately acknowledge that single-payer was the goal, and just cringe from saying it publicly?As I suggested in my first comment on UHC a few days ago, the big debate among progressives isn’t so much about whether to cover 90 percent, or 89 percent, or 100 percent of Americans, but the relative role of public and private insurance in getting there. That’s a debate we have to have, and it’s not advanced by those who deny there’s anything to talk about.

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