Bernie-Medicare-for-All

Media must step it up on Medicare-for-All

There are two key reasons why mainstream media must be talking about Medicare-for-All. First, it is sound policy, something that all Americans should hope for in truly finding affordable and accessible health care for all. Second, it is the Democrats’ position (though often muted) which stands in opposition to the Republicans’ “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare, or even simply “Repeal.”

Democrats acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act requires fixing. Most of what needs fixing is what was initially left out if the bill in 2009-2010 because (a) President Obama did not think that he could ask for that much, and (b) Republicans stood in firm opposition to it. The first step would be a public option, a proposal to create a government-run health insurance agency that would compete with other private health insurance companies within the United States. Because the public exchange would not need to charge consumers (taxpayers) the twenty percent overhead for private insurers’’ profit, it would immediately reduce costs and by its very nature, apply to everyone.

Presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson both supported some form of Medicare-for-All. But without presidential leadership, it took until 2003 for Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and others to introduce H.R. 676, a simple six-page bill which would establish a single-payer or Medicare-for-All system. But as we have previously reported, the media paid scant attention to the proposal when Dennis Kucinich ran for president in 2008 against the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both of whom were offering “universal-lite” coverage.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders forced the media to cover what was the linchpin to his health-care program. Unfortunately, for many in the media Sanders has become “yesterday’s news,” and along with his partial black-out is a silencing of many of the progressive proposals that he advocated. In fairness, very few Democrats in office have taken up his mantle, even though it was clearly more popular with voters than Hillary Clinton’s milquetoast.

An example of neither the media nor a mainstream Democrat adding Medicare-for-All to a conversation was on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday, July 3. Guest host John Berman was interviewing Maryland Senator Ben Cardin about the question of whether Democrats were willing to work with Republicans on health care reform. [I wish that I could give you a link to this interview, but CNN is notoriously bad in providing access to recently-aired clips or interviews.]. Berman asked Cardin whether Senate Democrats were willing to work with Republicans and the Maryland senator gave the requisite answer that in theory Democrats would collaborate, but it did not seem realistic presently because of the huge gulf that separates the two parties on health care. But what Cardin did not say, and what Berman did not ask about was exactly what Democrats stand for. Had he been asked that, I am not sure whether Cardin would have proposed first aid for ACA, or even mentioned that government subsidies needed to be greater to meet escalating medical costs.

All of that is confusing. Medicare-for-All is not. It is something that should be asked about and talked about.

When the main issue before us was gay marriage, members of the mainstream media did not hesitate to ask politicians whether they were for marriage equality. That was a clear question which lent itself to clear and precise answers.

The media has not done so with Medicare-for-All. It is time they do so because (a) it is good journalism to do so, and (b) their personal lives and that of the society in which they live will be better off with it.

UPDATE: On Sunday, July 9, 2019,”The Hill” reported “Single-payer healthcare gains traction with Dems”

  • Stacy Mergenthal

    Are we all being pushed and pulled further to the right? I am reminded often in these discussions that “Obamacare” was largely the brainchild of congressional Republicans in the 90’s. Great swaths of their 90’s proposal (the rightwing response to First Lady Clinton’s singlepayer advocacy) were included nearly verbatim in the ACA. Newt Gingrich has long been a proponent/advocate of the individual mandate, for example, and has an op-ed on the subject somewhere. It isn’t until a Democrat suggests it that Republicans hop on the NO train and start repeating the party line, “Democrats are the cogs in the wheels of our productivity.” (Meanwhile, the ACA’s very existence is evidence of Democrats’ willingness to work with Republicans.) I’d love to see the media calling politicians out on this behavior, even playing back footage of them directly contradicting themselves, a la the Daily Show. I feel like part of the media’s job is to hold public servants’ feet to the fire, demand they answer for every about-face on the issues; if not directly on-air, then later in a statement/response to the news story. Right now, the media is failing us all, and Bernie Sanders would agree.