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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Meyerson: An Economic Case for Medicare for All

Harold Meyerson, editor at large of The American Prospect, has a post, “How Elizabeth Warren Can Address the Medicare for All Question,” which merits a read from those who want to make sure Dems have a credible consensus on health care reform when the 2020 election rolls around.

Meyerson notes that “Elizabeth Warren is now dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on her own Medicare for All plan, which she has pledged to release shortly. As David Dayen astutely notes today, the plans put forth by Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’s primary opponents—chiefly, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg—will, if they’re any good, end up costing about as much as the Medicare for All proposals they’ve disparaged.”

Meyerson emphasizes Warren’s point that “the great majority of Americans pay far more for their private insurance than they would in higher taxes, though what they pay now is largely concealed from them because their employer routinely takes it out of their pay.” The media could do a better job of addressing the issue with sound research. Medicare for All supporters need some better soundbites to make the case that their plan is economically sound.

Top poll analysts have noted that public support for ‘Medicare for All’ lags far behind support for ‘Medicare for all who want it.” Some of that skepticism is due to the way the poll questions are framed, some of it emanates from the difficulty of evaluating and explaining economic factors. But most of it comes from a public perception that freedom of choice is important for health care.

Meyerson asks, “How can Elizabeth Warren address the major savings workers can win by shifting to Medicare for All?” He shares this quote attributed to Steve Tarzynski, president of the California Physicians Alliance:

Right now, you and your family pay $18,000 a year in premiums for employer-sponsored insurance that doesn’t even cover everything and that you could lose at any time. Plus another $2,000 in deductibles before it even kicks in and another $1,000 in co-pays. That’s about $21,000 every year for a basically defective product. That’s the “private tax” you’re paying right now. And your choice of doctor is restricted and you can even lose access to your doctor at any time. All that would go away with Medicare for All—no more premiums, no more deductibles, and no more co-pays. And all the care you and your family need will be covered and can never be taken away. You can choose any doctor you want. Yes. You’ll pay $5,000 more in taxes for all of that. But it will put $16,000 back in your pocket. And it doesn’t even include the share of the premium that your employer pays now that you could get back in wages and salary. Would you settle for that?

That’s about as good a one-paragraph economic case for Medicare for All as can be made. The question is, can it be sold to the public during the next year? For high-information voters – those who seriously read and think about it with an open mind – maybe so. For low-information, time-challenged and otherwise distracted voters, probably not.

The Democratic presidential nominee should build a consensus between the two proposals that can unify Democrats and progressives, perhaps including incentives for private insurance policy-holders to buy in to Medicare. The idea is to win a healthy majority of voters who can say, “the Democrats’ health care reform plan doesn’t do everything I want, but it’s the best one out there.”

One comment on “Meyerson: An Economic Case for Medicare for All

  1. Martin Lawford on

    In proposing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama said that the Act was not a tax, that it would lower premiums by $2,500 a year for a typical family, and that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep your health care plan. He is on videotape saying these things and none of them was true. Then, to what extent will previous lies and broken promises by Obama and other Democrats cast doubt on current Democratic proposals on health insurance?


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