A friend just emailed me to say that Americans will never give up their private health care plans. Minutes later, I read a post from Martin Longman making much the same point:
In theory, I am very enthusiastically in favor of eliminating the private for-profit health insurance industry entirely. Yet, I know that this would cause a political firestorm unlike anything we’ve seen since George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. In fact, it would likely be an order of magnitude more controversial than that fiasco. To make matters worse, it’s a promise that could not be kept. To even contemplate the passage of such a bill, the Democrats would need a supermajority in the Senate, and that’s not in the offing anytime soon.
….The question, then, is why would a presidential candidate run on a platform that included the elimination of private heath insurance? It might help them win the Democratic nomination, but thereafter it would weigh on them like an albatross….If they nevertheless won the election, which is certainly possible, they would have to abandon their promise or they’d wind up taking a huge beating much like Trump did in his effort to repeal Obamacare.
Well. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. This was all kicked off by Kamala Harris saying she wants to “eliminate all of that”—that being private health insurance—but this doesn’t mean she wants to eliminate all private insurance immediately. It could just as easily mean she supports a plan that would phase out private insurance over time. I suppose we’ll find out when she releases her inevitable health care white paper.
But let’s put that aside for a moment and ask ourselves: Are Americans really in love with their health insurers? Given the way health insurers treat people, that’s hard to believe. Americans do seem to be in love with their doctors, but that’s an entirely different thing.
But maybe I’m wrong. If so, what’s needed is a scorched-earth, Republicanesque jihad against health insurers. Blanket the airwaves with horror stories of insurance companies denying claims. Get some telegenic doctors to show off their staff and tell us that these people spend 100 percent of their time arguing with insurance companies to get fair treatment for their patients. “It adds $50 to every visit,” or something like that. Pan over to gravestones of people who died because their insurance company refused treatment.
You get the idea. I truly don’t think it would take much to turn insurance companies into pariahs. People already bitch about them endlessly, after all. At a guess, every single person reading this knows someone who has personally had to spend dozens or hundreds of hours on the phone with an insurance carrier to adjudicate some complicated bit of medical care.
Would Democrats be willing to fight an industry this ruthlessly? Hard to say. They’re willing to do it to the gun industry and the fossil fuel industry. So why not the health insurance industry?