Can ‘Medicare for All’ Carry Democrats at the Polls?

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2018/08/21/Can-Medicare-All-Carry-Democrats-Polls

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The idea of “Medicare for all” has support from top Democrats considered likely 2020 presidential contenders, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. But Politico’s Paul Demko reports that progressives promising a single-payer health care system have failed to win over voters in some Democratic primaries in swing districts this year:

 

Democratic candidates who made that a centerpiece of their campaigns in key districts this year lost their primaries, in some cases getting clobbered by rivals who offered vaguer health care plans or backed a more incremental approach. Democratic primary voters in battleground districts in Iowa, Texas, Kansas and New York passed over candidates who emphatically supported single payer.

 

The key quote: “The problem is Medicare for all just isn’t one of those litmus tests for Democratic primary voters,” John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster, tells Politico. “Voters are smart enough to know that Medicare for all isn’t going to happen right now, or maybe ever.”

 

Why it matters: While progressives may Medicare for all as a potent rallying cry, and polls show voters increasingly support the notion of a government-funded system, it’s still not a lock that the party will coalesce around such a plan, and it’s not clear how strongly the idea will motivate moderate swing-state voters. Some Democratic strategists and losing candidates argue that support for a single-payer system wasn’t the deciding factor in the contests Politico highlights, but the results still indicate just how complicated it can be for the party to turn the polling advantage it now has on health care into election — or policy — wins.

 

 

 

Health Care Industry Gears Up to Fight ‘Medicare for All’

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2018/08/10/Health-Care-Industry-Gears-Fight-Medicare-All

In anticipation of a “blue wave” election that brings more Democrats to Congress, the insurance and drug industries are gearing up to push back on the idea of a single-payer health care system.

The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports that health-care industry forces have teamed up to form the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, “which lobbyists say could run advertisements against single-payer plans and promote studies to undermine the idea.” The health care groups in the partnership, formed in June, include America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals.

The idea of a single-payer or “Medicare for all” health-care system has gained momentum among Democrats, even as significant questions remain about how such a massive overhaul might be implemented and how to pay for it. “Industry groups are worried that support for single-payer is quickly becoming the default position among Democrats, and they want to push back and strengthen ties to more centrist members of the party to promote alternatives,” Sullivan writes.

The groups’ concern is more about the prospects of a Democratic single-payer platform in 2020, given that a host of the party’s potential presidential candidates have backed Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” bill. “Every one of those organizations that’s in that group will look at Bernie Sanders’s single-payer and see massive losses of money,” John McDonough, a former Democratic Senate staffer who worked on the Affordable Care Act and is now at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Hill.

The industry’s budding campaign could pose a formidable political and public relations challenge to proponents of a single-payer system. “Leaving aside whether single payer is good policy or not,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt tweeted, “it seems like the idea is going to eventually need some powerful institutional allies from somewhere to advance.”

 

 

How Medicare Was Won

https://www.thenation.com/article/how-medicare-was-won/

senior citizens supporting Medicare at the 1964 Democratic National Convention

 

The history of the fight for single-payer health care for the elderly and poor should inform today’s movement to win for Medicare for All.

In August of 1964, 14,000 retirees arrived by the busload in Atlantic City. Representing the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC), the former railroad workers, dressmakers, and auto assemblers marched 10 blocks up the fabled New Jersey boardwalk to the Democratic National Convention at the Convention Hall. The group, which was organized and bankrolled by the AFL-CIO, moved en masse in floral housecoats and sandwich boards with slogans like “Our Illnesses Burden Our Families” and “Senior Citizens Vote, Remember Medicare.” They intended to push President Johnson to extend public health insurance to millions of Americans.

Astonishingly, less than a year later, they won. Medicare was signed into law in July of 1965 in Independence, Missouri, at a ceremony attended by former president Harry S. Truman, whose push for national health insurance (NHI) had collapsed nearly two decades before. The landmark law created a public-sector insurance pool for Americans 65 and over, which remains today the closest thing to a robust universal entitlement in the US health-care system. Its successful passage (which also passed Medicaid, to insure the very poor) stands in sharp contrast to multiple failed efforts to install a universal single-payer system.

A half-century later, we’re witnessing the early stages of yet another popular thrust toward single payer, increasingly billed as “Medicare for All.” The nomenclature intends to evoke associations with the popular, trusted program, and is perhaps easier for Americans to latch onto than a phraseology that threatens to trigger a tedious lesson in comparative health policy. But if the conceptual jump from Medicare to Medicare for All can serve as a rough model for achieving universal health care in the United States, we should also look to the history of the social movements that achieved something that then, too, seemed impossible.

No one imagines expanding Medicare to all Americans will be easy. Nothing quite like this has ever been accomplished in the United States. Yes, dozens of peer countries have built coherent, humane, universal health-care systems out of entrenched private ones. Yes, mass movements have won major leftist reforms. Yes, advanced private industries of various nations have been nationalized. But human history offers no examples of these things happening in combination, which is what winning Medicare for All will require.

The most viable push toward NHI in American history crumbled in the late 1940s, ruthlessly crushed by not only insurers and pharmaceutical companies but also the American Medical Association. (Physicians, whose already handsome salaries began to rise in the postwar era, feared the blow that NHI could strike to their paychecks, professional prestige, and autonomy, since a government payer would also reduce their control over prices.) As such, the AMA famously shook down its membership for $25 apiece to fund the multimillion-dollar campaign that injected the phrase “socialized medicine” into mainstream American culture.

In this context, it’s perhaps tempting to view Medicare as a capitulation to industry pressure and political challenges, rather than as evidence they can be flouted. After all, Medicare (and, for that matter, Medicaid) targeted the most vulnerable patients. Many single-payer skeptics insist that Medicare managed to pass because it covered the people private insurance left behind. In his book Harry S. Truman Versus the Medical Lobby: The Genesis of Medicare, historian Monte Poen presents Medicare as a sort of compromise between the unfettered free market and the dashed dreams of the 1940s.

While it’s true that the enactment of Medicare didn’t pose nearly the threat to certain health-care-industry stakeholders that the NHI did or that Medicare for All would, it would be a mistake to fully dismiss its applicability to the current political fight. For one thing, the common talking point that Medicare extended insurance to a population who didn’t have it, rather than squashing existing private infrastructure, doesn’t bear out. A full half of elderly Americans did have private insurance plans when Medicare was signed into law. Commercial health insurers initially opposed the program, and began to support it only when it became clear a large administrative role would be preserved for for-profit insurers.

More importantly, while insurance companies certainly fought against health-care-financing reforms, physicians associations and hospitals are typically considered to have been the more significant opponents—they believed Medicare to be a likely conduit for eventual full-scale single payer (and all the government interference they assumed would come with it), and struck back with more or less the same zeal that they mustered decades earlier. As historian Jill Quadagno puts it, the AMA fought Medicare with “every propaganda tactic it had employed during the Truman era.” Such tactics included a widespread media blitz, advertising in doctors’ offices, and visits to congressmen from physicians in their districts. One tactic, called “Operation Coffee Cup,” deputized physicians’ wives to host ladies’ gatherings, at which they’d play their guests an anti-Medicare PSA starring actor Ronald Reagan.

This time, the AMA and its allies failed, but not for lack of trying. So it’s unfair to ascribe Medicare’s triumph to a lack of industry resistance, which was actually quite strong. The more crucial variable distinguishing Medicare from the NHI battles that fizzled before and since was a mass movement of people demanding it, having coalesced at a moment when powerful liberatory struggles against white supremacy and poverty had transformed what could be deemed politically possible.

Organized labor went all-in for Medicare, which took substantial pressure off unions for their retirees’ mounting health-care costs. Their enthusiasm contrasted with their relationship with universal initiatives before and since, despite their largely supporting most on paper. The reasons for labor’s tepid support for single payer have been debated by historians: For one thing, the unions’ success at collectively bargaining for employer-provided health benefits during the Truman-era reform battles perhaps reduced their motivation to prioritize national health-care solutions, the ongoing absence of which almost certainly highlighted the advantage of union membership. Since the 1970s, ever-rising health-care costs strengthened the case that labor’s interests would be served by removing health-care benefits from tense contract negotiations, but declining labor power during America’s rightward political shift tied them to a Democratic Party establishment unwilling to back single payer during the health-care debates of the 1970s and ’90s.

Today, with a slim majority of congressional Democrats vocally warming up to Medicare for All, and the ACA’s so-called “Cadillac Tax” poised to hit hard-won union-bargained health plans, the pro-labor case for single payer has never been more obvious. Indeed, each of the high-profile wildcat teachers’ strikes widely cited health-care benefits as a central demand. While the AFL-CIO has endorsed single payer, the question of whether workers will rally around Medicare for All they way they did for its namesake could well depend on how the movement’s stakeholders deal with those who stand to be displaced by the streamlining effect of large-scale reform.

But beyond institutional heft or the weight of its endorsements, the most impactful contribution organized labor made to the Medicare fight was a committed army of thousands of boots on the ground, many of them seniors who stood to benefit from the legislation or the family members who worried about how they’d care for them. Even the most precursory survey of 20th-century universal-health-care movements makes their most egregious failure stunningly obvious: They were nearly all top-down operations practically devoid of participation of ordinary people intent on changing the status quo.

By the time the NCSC marched in Atlantic City, this movement was already years in the making. It had been building momentum for the idea that would become Medicare in the 1950s, under a Republican president who, in is 1954 State of the Union address, had affirmed he was “flatly opposed to the socialization of medicine.” Rather than standing by waiting for better electoral luck, the Medicare movement fought to make theirs a winning campaign issue that would help to elect Democrats, not the other way around.

For years, the NCSC spearheaded letter-writing campaigns targeting media outlets and elected officials, and did any media outreach it could. It churned out brochures to counter the messaging of the powerful medical lobby, printing and distributing millions of pamphlets and fliers. As Blue Carstenson, then head of the NCSC, recounted later, “We had to make it a cause and we made it a cause…. We charged the atmosphere like a campaign…. We were always jammed in there and there was a hustle and bustle atmosphere. And when reporters came over they were always impressed by telephones ringing and the wild confusion and this little bitty outfit here that was tackling the whole AMA in a little apartment on Capitol Hill…. This was news. It used to make every reporter chuckle or smile.”

So too did the NCSC learn to push the buttons of electoral politics: It organized groups to testify before Congress about insurance premiums, which rose as much as 35 percent some years, like some ACA marketplace plans. And of course, Carstenson’s formidable elderly army turned out to campaign events. When Democrat George Smathers declined to support Medicare before the 1964 election, NCSC members organized town-hall meetings throughout the state—including one in Fort Lauderdale that was allegedly so successful that the organizers had to upgrade to a bigger venue three different times. Their message made appeals to all ages: Relief for seniors’ medical costs, they argued, will also reduce financial pressure on their working-age children, who’d in turn have more room in the budget to raise their own kids.

If the participants in today’s movement for Medicare for All intend to succeed, they must preempt the imminent counterattack of a health-care industry with far more fortunes at stake than the one their counterparts vanquished in 1965. This will require a mass mobilization of people making themselves seen and heard, whose demands for universal public insurance must reach a fever pitch to force candidates and current officials to capitulate. Doing so will demand a broad variety of tactics, including direct action, canvassing, printed materials, and public events, geared toward not only  persuading regular voters but also inspiring new ones.

Finally, this vision of justice must extend beyond the realm of health care alone. It is nearly impossible to imagine Medicare passing outside the political context set forth by the civil-rights movement, and the so-called War on Poverty. These years-long mobilizations of oppressed people had forced the political reckoning that fostered large-scale reform. It is no coincidence that the New Deal and the Great Society—however short they may have fallen—came about in large bursts rather than undetectable spurts.

Paradigm-shifting reforms have been delivered by broad coalitions confronting a common enemy. It’s up to advocates to compel people living under the US health-care system to see themselves and one another as part of a single constituency, from the poorest uninsured to those saddled with punishing paperwork, office staff chained to bad jobs for benefits, providers-turned-pawns of corporate conglomerates, and expectant mothers bracing themselves for exorbitant out-of-pocket costs atop weeks of unpaid maternity leave. And it must be done in solidarity with struggles on behalf of all oppressed Americans—people of color, the unhoused, the disabled, and others—whose subjugation benefits the very moneyed interests who’d prefer to keep things as they are.

All the evidence tells us that robust universal programs build solidarity, and create an impassioned base that enthusiastically defends them. Once Medicare for All is in place we can expect the same. Until then, it’s up to advocates to compel as many people as possible to envision the radically different society that stands to inherit it—and to accept nothing less.

One big thing people don’t know about single payer

https://www.axios.com/one-big-thing-people-dont-know-about-single-payer-1513306567-26ab72cc-0fa9-4fcc-82c1-835a1793698d.html

It is generally assumed that the biggest obstacle to a national health plan like Medicare for All will be the large tax increase needed to pay for it. But new polling shows another challenge: Almost half of the American people don’t know that they would have to change their current health insurance arrangements if there was a single-payer plan.

Why it matters: Current insurance plans leave a lot to be desired for many people, and it is entirely possible that some people would want to switch to a Medicare for All style plan. But the public has resisted being forced to change their health care in the past — don’t forget the uproar over the cancelled plans at the launch of the Affordable Care Act.

So requiring people to change could trigger blowback and would certainly provide a talking point to help opponents scare people about single payer.

The details: Overall, the general idea of a national health plan is pretty popular, with 53% of the American people favoring a national health plan — 30% strongly favoring it and 23% somewhat favoring it. On the other side, 31% strongly oppose it and 13% somewhat oppose it. Democrats and Republicans split on the idea, as expected.

But as the chart shows, somehow, 47% of the American people think they would be able to keep their current health insurance — even though a single payer Medicare for All style plan would do away with employer-based insurance.

  • 52% of Democrats, the group most supportive of single payer as an idea, think they will be able to keep their plan.
  • Notably, 44% of people with employer-based insurance think they would be able to keep their current plan.

Advocates of single payer consider it a virtue that employer-based health insurance would be eliminated. Health reformers on the right would also do away with employer-based insurance, but they would replace it with tax credits for private insurance, not a government plan.

There are also more targeted public insurance proposals for people who can’t get Medicaid or marketplace coverage — including a government-run public option, a Medicare buy-in for 50-64 year olds, or a Medicaid buy-in option on the ACA marketplaces. They wouldn’t threaten people’s current health care arrangements, but they are far from the rallying cry for some progressives Medicare for All may be, and they’re no slam dunks in the current political environment.

The bottom line: There is no sweeping health reform plan without tradeoffs, as we learned with both the ACA and the Republican repeal-and-replace plans. The fact that so many people don’t know that a national health plan would require them to change their insurance arrangements underscores the challenge of making the transition from a popular idea to a reality for a single-payer national health plan.

 

 

 

CMS Adminstrator dismisses Affordable Care Act

https://medcitynews.com/2018/07/cms-adminstrator-dismisses-affordable-care-act/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=64788542&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8mdaAOTYxf6cjMT0ViPYfikDP4DruFnGCcAklqGvDXOA5a-CZtyDt1i5QbWN8EfReNWPQPXt2FzCb7Agb5drHGOJf8og&_hsmi=64788542

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About 1.4 million Californians buy coverage through the state’s Obamacare exchange, Covered California, and nearly 4 million have joined Medicaid as a result of the program’s expansion under the law.

Stepping into the land of the Trump resistance, Seema Verma flatly rejected California’s pursuit of single-payer health care as unworkable and dismissed the Affordable Care Act as too flawed to ever succeed.

Speaking Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club here, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said she supports granting states flexibility on health care but indicated she would not give California the leeway it would need to spend federal money on a single-payer system.

“I think a lot of the analysis has shown it’s unaffordable,” Verma said during a question-and-answer session following her speech. “It doesn’t make sense for us to waste time on something that’s not going to work.”

During her speech, Verma issued a broader warning to advocates pushing for a Medicare-for-all program nationally. She said that “socialized” approach to medicine would endanger the program and the health care it provides for millions of older Americans.

“We don’t want to divert the purpose and focus away from our seniors,” Verma said in the address before more than 200 people. “In essence, Medicare for all would become Medicare for none.”

Single-payer has emerged as a key issue in the California governor’s race this year. The current front-runner for governor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and the current lieutenant governor, has vowed to pursue a state-run, single-payer system for all Californians if elected in November. Many California lawmakers have endorsed that idea as the next step toward achieving universal coverage and to tackling rising costs.

California has enthusiastically embraced the Affordable Care Act, and state leaders have struggled with — and even bucked — the Trump administration on a variety of health-policy fronts. The state stands to lose more than any other if the Trump administration is successful in further dismantling the ACA.

About 1.4 million Californians buy coverage through the state’s Obamacare exchange, Covered California, and nearly 4 million have joined Medicaid as a result of the program’s expansion under the law.

Verma wields enormous power as head of CMS, overseeing a $1 trillion budget. The agency sets policy for Medicare, Medicaid and the federal insurance exchanges under the ACA.

The landmark health law, she said, was so flawed it could not work without further action from Congress.

“It wasn’t working when we came into office and it continues not to work,” Verma said, responding to a question from moderator Mark Zitter, founder of the Zetema Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes debate on health care across partisan lines. “The program is not designed to be successful.”
Zitter billed the event as a rare chance for Californians to hear directly from a top Trump administration official, although Verma’s remarks broke little new ground, he said.

Trump health care policies figure into many of California’s congressional races this fall in which incumbent Republicans are fending off Democratic challengers. And in court, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading a coalition of attorneys general who are defending the constitutionality of the ACA in a Texas case with national implications.

The Trump administration has sided with the officials waging the lawsuit, choosing not to defend the health law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. Separately, the administration has backed work requirements for many people on Medicaid.

Short
California’s state Senate passed a law in May banning such requirements as a condition for eligibility in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The bill is pending in the state Assembly.

“Making health insurance coverage contingent on work requirements goes against all we’ve worked for here in California,” state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), author of SB 1108, said in May.

State lawmakers also are considering bills that would limit the GOP-backed sale of short-term health policies and prevent people from joining association health plans that don’t have robust consumer protections.

In an interview after the speech, Verma criticized those legislative efforts in California because they would limit consumer choice.
“Any efforts to thwart choice and competition and letting Americans make decisions about their health care is bad health policy,” she said.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s ACA marketplace, has criticized the Trump administration for promoting those cheaper, skimpier policies as an alternative to ACA-compliant plans. He said he fears consumers will be harmed by “bait-and-switch products” that don’t provide comprehensive benefits.

“There have been a series of policies from Washington that have the effect of raising costs, particularly for middle-class Americans, and pricing them out of coverage,” Lee said in an interview last week. “This is not a failure of the ACA. This is entirely happening since the new administration.”

Most of Verma’s speech in San Francisco focused on Medicare. She outlined a number of initiatives designed to strengthen the program and protect taxpayers from ballooning costs. After the speech, CMS announced proposed changes to Medicare payment policies for outpatient care that could yield savings for the government and patients.

In her remarks, Verma reiterated the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce prescription drug prices, improve patients’ access to their own medical records and eliminate burdensome regulations on doctors and other medical providers.

Verma received a polite round of applause at the beginning and end of her appearance.

 

Trump’s top Medicare official slams ‘Medicare for All’

https://apnews.com/a69f5ada0db24ada9bc5bd8a44604f3b

The Trump administration’s Medicare chief on Wednesday slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a national health plan, saying “Medicare for All” would undermine care for seniors and become “Medicare for None.”

The broadside from Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verma came in a San Francisco speech that coincides with a focus on health care in contentious midterm congressional elections.

Sanders, a Vermont independent, fired back at Trump’s Medicare chief in a statement that chastised her for trying to “throw” millions of people off their health insurance during the administration’s failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Verma’s made her comments toward the end of a lengthy speech before the Commonwealth Club of California, during which she delved into arcane details of Medicare payment policies.

Denouncing what she called the “drumbeat” for “government-run socialized health care,” Verma said “Medicare for All” would “only serve to hurt and divert focus from seniors.”

“You are giving the government complete control over decisions pertaining to your care, or whether you receive care at all,” she added.

“In essence, Medicare for All would become Medicare for None,” she said. Verma also said she disapproved of efforts in California to set up a state-run health care system, which would require her agency’s blessing.

In his response, Sanders said that “Medicare is, by far, the most cost-effective, efficient and popular health care program in America.

He added: “Medicare has worked extremely well for our nation’s seniors and will work equally well for all Americans.”

The Sanders proposal would add benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, coverage for eyeglasses, most dental care, and hearing aids. It would also eliminate deductibles and copayments that Medicare and private insurance plans currently require.

Independent analyses of the Sanders plan have focused on the enormous tax increases that would be needed to finance it, not on concern about any potential harm to seniors currently enrolled in Medicare.

But so-called “Mediscare” tactics have been an effective political tool for both parties in recent years, dating back to Republican Sarah Palin’s widely debunked “death panels” to fan opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Democrats returned the favor after Republicans won control of the House in 2010 and tried to promote a Medicare privatization plan.

Democrats clearly believe supporting “Medicare for All” will give them an edge in this year’s midterm elections.

More than 60 House Democrats recently launched a “Medicare for All” caucus, trying to tap activists’ fervor for universal health care that helped propel Sanders’ unexpectedly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Just a few years ago, Sanders could not find co-sponsors for his legislation.

A survey earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post found that 51 percent of Americans would support a national health plan, while 43 percent opposed it. Nearly 3 out of 4 Democrats backed the idea, as did 54 percent of independents. But only 16 percent of Republicans supported the Sanders approach.

Early in his career as a political figure, President Donald Trump spoke approvingly of Canada’s single-payer health care system, roughly analogous to Sanders’ approach. But by the 2016 presidential campaign Trump had long abandoned that view.

 

SINGLE PAYER GETTING MORE ATTENTION AT STATE LEVEL, NOT GOING AWAY

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/single-payer-getting-more-attention-state-level-not-going-away

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States are testing the waters with Medicare-for-all type plans while waiting for federal solutions. The cost of single-payer plans could be the biggest hurdle.

“Medicare for all” is becoming a rallying cry in state elections, with state legislators coming up with their own versions of single-payer healthcare despite, or possibly because of, the stagnation of similar ideas at the federal level.

The push for a single-payer healthcare system is proving successful for some, such as socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rocked New York by beating the 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a New York City district. She is a vocal proponent of single-payer healthcare.

The proliferation of state plans and in particular Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York could indicate growing support for single-payer healthcare, says Sally C. Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.

Pipes says the American public may be drawn by the promises of a healthcare plan that eliminates premiums and other disliked features of the current system.

“The horse is out of the barn in terms of single payer. They keep pushing it and pushing it and this has become a major issue that gets the voters’ attention, especially for progressive Democrats,” Pipes says.

She says, “There’s an effort in the states to test the waters as they wait for things to change in Washington. Because Obamacare wasn’t repealed and replaced, Democrats are saying single payer is what they wanted all along, so now they’re going for it.”

MULTIPLE STATE PROPOSALS

Four single payer proposals are on the table nationally, including one from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that calls for Medicare to be available to all Americans. State legislators and candidates are taking up the issue ahead of midterm elections, rallying the many voters who are fed up with the current healthcare system and want a solution in the form of a government-sponsored single payer.

The state plans are similarly idealistic, calling for universal coverage of all residents regardless of income and eliminating premiums, copays, and deductibles.

Many states have serious proposals for single-payer systems. In Michigan, Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) is proposing a government-administered single-payer system to provide coverage to everyone in the state.

The MiCare plan would provide state residents with medical, dental, mental health, and prescription drug coverage while eliminating healthcare premiums, copays, and deductibles, Rabhi says.

Healthcare providers would remain independent, and patients would be able to pick among participating providers under the MiCare plan. Michigan would pay for the plan by cutting administrative costs generated by for-profit insurance companies and raising taxes, Rabhi says. He claims the state would save a net $20 billion in the first year.

“Instead of the exorbitant costs, stress and uncertainty of premiums, deductibles, co-insurance and other out-of-pocket payments, working families would pay a small and simple progressive payroll tax designed to save real money on their overall health expenses,” Rabhi explains in his proposal.

He continues, “Large and medium employers would pay a payroll tax set at a level lower than the current average employer expenditures for employee health care, saving many employers money immediately.”

Also, in Michigan, a Democrat running for governor has proposed MichCare. Abdul El-Sayed, MD, says he would pay for his single-payer plan with a new, graduated payroll tax that all working people would pay, coupled with new taxes on the gross earnings of businesses making more than $2 million a year.

The New York state Assembly recently passed a bill calling for a statewide single-payer universal healthcare system, for the fourth year in a row.

The New York Health Act would include comprehensive outpatient and inpatient medical care, primary and preventive care, prescription drugs, lab tests, rehab, dental, vision, hearing, and all benefits required by current state insurance law, by publicly funded medical programs or provided by the state public employee package.

The bill passed easily in the Democrat-led chamber but the state’s Republican-led Senate is not expected to take up the measure this year.

Minnesota State Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) is running for governor on a platform that includes her Pathway to Single-Payer plan, which will set the state up to “lead the nation by becoming the first state to provide guaranteed, affordable health care to everyone,” as stated in a press release.

MORE MOMENTUM THAN IN PAST

Pipes opposes single-payer healthcare, saying Americans would regret the choice only after experiencing the increased taxes and reduced services of such a system. But single payer has become a powerful political tool, she says.

“Before Bernie Sanders proposed single payer in 2016, it wasn’t really taken seriously, but now you have all these states supporting it,” she says. “Political leaders are seeing this as an issue they can run on and get lots of support, draw big crowds, and look like they’re giving people what they want.”

Americans have been on the fence about Medicare-for-all plans for a while, with one survey of  1,850 U.S. adults finding that 51% supported the idea.

That figure could be increasing, Pipes says. If it is, Pipes says she suspects it is largely because politicians can run on the pie-in-the-sky promises of eliminating premiums, copays, and deductibles while giving few details about how to pay for such a plan.

“Both New York and Michigan say theirs would be paid for by progressive income tax increases and a new payroll tax, but they haven’t come out and said just what the cost would be. That’s unlike in California, where the Senate appropriations committee said SB 562 would cost $400 billion a year,” Pipes says. “People are drawn to the promised improvements, but they have to consider the cost at some point.”

Single payer is a polarizing topic, with Democrats and Republicans typically coming down sharply on either side of the issue, but Pipes says Democrats run the risk of dividing their own voters.

“People support single payer when you ask them if they’d like a system that eliminates everything they don’t like about the current system, but when you ask if they want to pay more taxes that support goes down,” Pipes says.

“The Democrats are finding this is a successful way to motivate people in a campaign but when they have to answer questions about raising taxes on everyone, including working class voters, they could find themselves driving a wedge between their constituents,” she says.