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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will Single-Payer Fans Sink Health Reform?

It’s highly ironic but true that if health care reform eventually goes down to defeat in Congress, it will be in no small part due to opposition from supporters of a single-payer approach.
But I’m not talking about progressive supporters of, say, HR 676, the legislation to create Canadian-style government-provided national health insurance. No, it’s current beneficiaries of Medicare who are the big problem. As Matt Yglesias points out today, traditional Medicare is nothing but a single-payer system limited to seniors. It is far more generous than anything today’s uninsured would receive under “Obamacare.” It is certainly more “socialistic” than anything that would be provided by any of the legislation moving through Congress. But as polls show, seniors are the demographic category least likely to support health reform.
Why? Well, begin with the fact that seniors were also the demographic category least likely to vote for Barack Obama last November. They are generally well-insured (again, mainly through Medicare). And they have been the subject of a very intense misinformation campaign by health reform opponents, who have made scary claims about the impact of reform ranging from big cuts in Medicare to a national drive for euthanasia.
And let’s face it: there is an element of “I’ve got mine” thinking going on. As Michael Cohen pointed out recently, the entire health reform debate has encouraged Americans to do a personal cost-benefit analyis towards reform, and if they don’t immediately “do better,” they are not inclined to support change. Ironically, the element of the population already served by “government-dominated health care” may not be much interested in sharing those benefits with others.
In one-on-one communications with seniors, it’s probably worth making the point that health reform opponents are often people who if left to their own devices would privatize or abolish Medicare: not exactly the people you’d want to trust. But in the end, boosting support for reform among seniors may come down to an effort to convince them that it won’t hurt them, but will help their country.
UPCATEGORY: Democratic Strategist

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