© Josh Sager – January 2016
In recent weeks, Hillary Clinton has delivered a two-pronged and incredibly disingenuous attack against Bernie Sanders for his position in favor of single-payer healthcare. She is simply lying while making these attacks and is betting on the American people being too ignorant about policy matters to identify the amazing dishonesty of her case.
While it is often pointless to speculate about politicians’ motivations for such attacks, Hillary’s decision to attack Bernie on this issue may have something to do with the fact that he is now polling within the margin of error of her in several key primary states (including Iowa and New Hampshire. Alternately, it could have something to do with the $2.8 million dollars in personal revenue that the health insurance industry has given Hillary in exchange for “speeches” in the last three years alone (after all, the health insurance industry’s worst fear is a Sanders-style single payer competitor).
Hillary’s first line of attack against Bernie Sanders’s single-payer proposal is based around the Wall Street Journal’s assertion that it would cost at least $18 trillion dollars in the first decade alone. This attack was first delivered during the December Democratic primary debate and has been repeated several times since by various Hillary proxies.
The dishonesty of this line of attack is not in the inaccuracy of the statement itself, but the fact that vital information is omitted. It is certainly true that any single-payer plan will cost trillions of dollars to implement, but this cost is actually far below the projected costs of continuing the current system of market-reliant health insurance. In fact, the economist whose research was cited in the Wall Street Journal’s article wrote a letter rebuking their distortions and explaining that Bernie’s single payer plan would SAVE the American people $5.081 trillion during the decade he analyzed.
The USA spends a truly astonishing amount of money on healthcare every year ($3 trillion according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and the passage of a single-payer healthcare plan would simply redistribute and reduce these costs. Single-payer healthcare has lower costs than private insurance because it doesn’t extract premiums as profits, has lower administrative overhead, and utilizes minimal advertising. Because of this disparity, the Sanders plan to shift millions of Americans into a public option would reduce overall costs and a simple assessment of the costs associated with the public option is deceptive at best.
Ironically, this anti-single-payer attack by the Hillary camp is the exact same attack that the GOP has levied against Social Security. They claim that the program is a massive “unfunded liability” because it will cost us trillions of dollars over the next few decades, yet fail to mention that this money will be returned as benefits and that all credible assessments conclude that Social Security actually generates more economic growth (it increases the buying power of the elderly, which buoys aggregate demand for commercial goods).
Hillary’s second line of attack against Bernie Sander’s health care plan is that it would destroy Medicare and CHIP, throwing millions of Americans off of their healthcare, and would result in the repeal of Obamacare. She first used this attack during the 3rd Democratic primary debate and has used her daughter as a proxy to levy it again this week (Chelsea doesn’t sneeze on the campaign trail without her mother’s permission).
Put simply, this assertion is a demonstrable lie that is designed to trick liberals who want to protect vital social safety net programs into opposing the expansion of said programs to protect even more Americans. Bernie Sanders’s single-payer program would expand the benefits of Medicare to help everybody—not just the elderly and disabled—by creating a massive care pool that anybody could buy into. This “destruction” of Medicare would, in reality, result in its expansion by orders of magnitude and render it essentially immune to political attacks in the future (it would help so many people).
Polls show that a crushing majority of Democrats support a universal single-payer.
Here is a small excerpt from Sanders’s healthcare bill that just drives home how disingenuous this attack is:
SEC. 102. UNIVERSAL ENTITLEMENT. In General.—Every individual who is a resident of the United States is entitled to benefits for health care services under this Act under the appropriate State health security program. In this section, the term “appropriate State health security program” means, with respect to an individual, the State health security program for the State in which the individual maintains a primary residence.
In short, this section of the bill makes it so that every resident of each state has a right to be enrolled in either Medicare or Medicaid (or both if they are dual-eligible), regardless of their age, income, infirmity, or citizenship status. It is the ultimate expansion of health insurance availability that would render large parts of Obamacare redundant. The passage of this bill would bring the US more in line with European nations like France, which have significantly better health results (on average), at lower costs, and with universal accessibility.
In response to this reality, the Hillary campaign has argued that the Bernie Sanders plan to provide universal health insurance is dangerous because it would give power back to the states, many of which are run by Republicans. She has used this line of attack multiple times, the most recent of which was her last campaign event in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, this argument is simply false and deceptive.
While the Bernie Sanders health insurance bill would give some latitude to the states to design their own program, any state that either refuses to participate or designs a program that does not meet federal requirements would simply have their state insurance program run by the federal government. There would be no way for state Republicans to simply refuse to implement this single-payer program (short of illegal and unconstitutional nullification) and their ability to pervert it would be strictly limited by federal oversight.
There is a perfectly valid debate over healthcare, but these disingenuous attacks are outside the acceptable bound of this debate—they are not based in fact and are designed to take advantage of the policy ignorance of the American people. Hillary Clinton supports in the centrist and market-based solution for providing health access to the American people while Bernie Sanders supports a liberal universal option, and the debate should be between the merits of these two ideas rather than on imaginary problems.
We have seen what the final result is when a political party lets fact-free attacks take over the political discourse—it is a party where Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are fighting for the nomination of the frothing masses of young-earthers and science deniers. Democrats should hold our candidates to a much higher standard and must demand that Hillary stop these non-factual attacks against liberal health insurance policies.