The Corner

Health Care

First Democratic Debate Reveals the Flaw in the GOP’s Anti-Single-Payer Message

(Pixabay)

In the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle, candidates proposed a number of far-left ideas. But when Lester Holt asked, “Who here would abolish private health insurance in favor of a government run plan?” only two raised their hands: Elizabeth Warren and Bill De Blasio.

It was a new stand for Warren, who previously had been vague on whether she supported the abolition of private insurance. But the most significant aspect of the episode is how it highlighted the flaws in Republicans’ strategy on health care.

It has been tempting for Republicans to default to their traditional posture of complaining about what Democrats want to do on health care rather than proposing their own ideas. Hence all the op-eds and speeches from leading Republicans about the perils of so-called “Medicare for All” single-payer health care.

The hitch in the GOP strategy is that only a minority of Democratic presidential candidates — Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, De Blasio, and now Warren — have explicitly supported the abolition of private insurance. The remaining candidates have expressed support for measures that are relatively more incremental, such as installing a government-run “public option” health insurer that would compete with private insurers in the individual and employer-sponsored markets.

These public-option-based approaches, whatever their flaws, are more clearly targeted at the problem that most Americans care about: the extremely high cost of U.S. health care. Public-option plans are usually designed to pay hospitals and doctors at Medicare’s reimbursement rates. Because private insurers are forced to pay hospitals at exaggerated rates, private-insurer premiums are higher than what a plan paying Medicare rates would charge. That is to say: A public option would offer lower premiums and lower deductibles to the average consumer than the typical private health-insurance plan does.

While panelists on cable news go on about “socialism,” the public option is the far more likely encroachment upon a private-sector, market-based health-care system. A recent poll found that even Republican voters favored the creation of a “new government health insurance plan” by a margin of 44–32 percent. Republicans and conservatives need to get serious about reducing the cost of Americans’ health care, particularly when it comes to hospital care and prescription drugs, or they will find themselves once again on the losing end of an important health care debate.

There are encouraging signs. President Trump’s recent executive order on health-care price transparency, and a related bipartisan bill from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, could open up anti-competitive hospital pricing practices. The Trump administration has been doing serious, and underappreciated, work to reduce prescription-drug prices. And Arkansas representative Bruce Westerman’s Fair Care Act is the most robust legislative approach yet developed in Congress to reduce hospital and drug costs through competition.

But this key issue — lowering the cost of American health care — has to be front and center in Republicans’ thinking about the 2020 election. If it is not, we may wake up in November 2020 and find it is Democrats, not Republicans, who are more in touch with voters’ economic concerns.

Most Popular

Sports

It’s Time for Colin Kaepernick to Move On

Colin Kaepernick. Remember him? Below-average quarterback. Above-average poseur. Not “activist,” not really. Activists actually say stuff. Kaepernick almost never says anything. He’s like the Queen or most popes — you have to read the deep-background musings of supposed members of his inner circle to get ... Read More
U.S.

What The 1619 Project Leaves Out

“The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year,” The New York Times Magazine editors declare. “Doing so requires us to place ... Read More
Elections

Trump and the Black Vote

"Donald Trump is a racist, white supremacist, white nationalist. So are his supporters." Some version of that refrain is heard almost hourly somewhere in mainstream media. Democratic politicians seem to proclaim it more often than that. Listening only to the Left, you'd conclude that more than half a ... Read More
PC Culture

Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness

This might come as some surprise to observers of our campus culture wars, but there was a time, not long ago, when the situation in American higher education was much worse. There a wave of vicious campus activism aimed at silencing heterodox speakers, and it was typically empowered by a comprehensive regime of ... Read More
U.S.

The Age of Miscalculation

On August 7, 1998, more than 200 people were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Americans learned three names most of them never had heard before: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. On August 20, 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered a ... Read More