Editor’s note: This article was updated at 11:54 a.m. Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will announce a single-payer health care plan dubbed “Medicare for all” on Wednesday, but early responses show Democrats are already split over it.
Under a “single-payer” health care model, one organization — usually the government using taxpayer money — covers all the costs for health care. Vermont tried to implement such a system under the Shumlin administration but failed in 2014.
Despite that failure, some Democrats seem open to give it a try.
“I think people in general are for it,” state Rep. Annmarie Christensen, D-Weathersfield, told True North. “62 percent of American people in a recent AP poll said they would like the federal government to actually take more responsibility for providing healthcare, and that’s up from 52 percent in March.”
Christensen, a member of the House Committee on Health Care, added that the circumstances have to be right for it to work.
“I don’t believe states can enact a single-payer system on their own. It would have to come from the federal level, and what that federal level looks like changes by the day,” she said.
Single-payer health care advocates often tout the model as a success story for European countries, despite reported longer wait times for critical services. Critics say the costs are astronomically high, and that current Medicare unfunded liabilities are already approaching $48 trillion — without trying to cover everyone.
Tim Jerman, vice chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, told True North he thinks most Democrats in Vermont will support Sanders’ plan.
“I think there’s been a lot of effort in this state to move forward with health insurance reform, and I do think it’s going to be popular within the state. The idea of whether it has any chance of passage is another matter,” he said.
He said Sanders will continue to be a leader for Progressives and liberals within the state and beyond, especially on the issue of health care and despite Sanders’ claims to be a socialist.
“Most Democrats … would like to join and change the party from within rather than from without — I think there’s a lot of people in that boat. But they are generally supportive of most of the policies that he espouses.”
Despite possible widespread support in Vermont, a group called Justice Democrats, founded by two former Sanders campaign staffers and Young Turks CEO Cenk Uygur, released a scorecard showing little support among Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Their tracking reveals only about eight senators who are willing to back the Medicare for All Act. A video released by Sanders’ office Wednes counts 15 senators as supporters.
Peter Sullivan and Mike Lillis, writing for The Hill, claim Democrats face a conundrum over single-payer: “The issue poses a dilemma for both Democratic leaders and presidential hopefuls, who are walking a fine line between appeasing their liberal supporters without alienating the more conservative-leaning voters they’ll need to win back power in the House, the Senate and the White House.”
However, Aaron Maté, a Brooklyn-based producer for The Real News, suggested that more Democrats nationally may be signing on with Bernie and single-payer.
“The fact that all these co-sponsors who have come up in the past week are seen as likely contenders — (Elizabeth) Warren, Kamala Harris, Chris Gillibrand of New York — that is quite striking. It suggests that their consultants and their people are looking at the polls and saying, ‘Listen, if you want a chance in 2020, not supporting single-payer is simply untenable,'” he said.
Some key Democrats, including U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have already decided not to support the legislation.
Former Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had little good to say about single-payer during her run in 2016. “People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass,” she said last year.
Republicans, on the other hand, seem to think a push for single-payer helps their chances in 2020.
“One of the biggest assets Republicans have right now going into the next elections and in 2020 are our opponents the Democrats, and the crazy ideas that they are putting out there,” David Avella, Republican strategist said in a Fox News interview.
Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.