One of the biggest arguments against Medicare for All or single-payer healthcare is that it would disrupt or destroy the current existing system of employer-provided private health insurance. This isn’t a good argument, of course, but it’s one that gets a lot of air time from the shrill handwringing crowd that wants to make sure the profits from private companies are safe.
Case in point, this clip of Bernie Sanders, hoovered up by the “RNC Research” wing, where the Vermont senator and presidential candidate puts it pretty simply: “Get rid of the insurance companies.”
Here’s his quote in a bit more context: “You are not going to be able in the long run to have cost effective universal health care unless you change the system, unless you get rid of the insurance companies, unless you stand up to the greed of the drug companies and lower prescription drug costs.” This is largely true!
What Bernie is talking about is a more radical “Medicare for All” plan that doesn’t include the stopgap measure of a “public option,” or a system in which people can keep their private insurance but have a universal public option they can use. Doing away with this system and replacing it with a fully public-funded universal option is really the only way we progress, and the idea is catching on; here’s Kamala Harris saying basically the same thing at a town hall in January:
Harris eventually walked this back and said she was interested in a public option plan, which is disappointing but understandable. Democrats are often cagey about going full-on into “kill the insurance companies” because it’s scary to introduce a system that does away with people’s private insurance (which they may like or be scared to lose, for good reason).
The hurdle then becomes convincing the public to take that leap of faith into single-payer’s arms. How we’ll do that, most likely, is with more candidates doing... some version of this. Just coming out and saying it. Kill the insurance companies. Replace them with a federal system. You don’t have to shop on the private market for firefighters when your house burns down, and there’s no reason you should have to when you break a leg.
Sanders’ own Medicare for All bill isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close to what the country needs. And if accurately diagnosing the problem on national TV is the best opposition research the RNC can find, he’s in pretty good shape.