Republicans Put Out a Very Misleading Ad Attacking Medicare-for-All

The spot targets a New Mexico Democrat who hasn’t even embraced the policy.

A new ad from the National Republican Campaign Committee, the main organization dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives, opens ominously. The ad, which appeared online Tuesday, targets Xochitl Torres Small, the Democratic candidate in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. It features a mother who calls the doctor’s office about her sick daughter, pulling out her insurance card only to be told the office no longer accepts it because the government has nationalized health care and her employer-based plan is now worthless. The narrator, in a solemn voice, says the new government health care plans put “Washington bureaucrats in charge” as the mother nervously consoles her daughter that “it’ll be OK.”  

The ad calls the hypothetical scheme a “massive government-run system,” but what it’s really talking about is single-payer health care, or Medicare-for-all.

There are a couple of problems with the ad. First and foremost, the Democrat it attacks isn’t running as a supporter of Medicare-for-all. When the Albuquerque Journal asked Torres Small in May whether she supports single-payer, she dodged the question and instead focused on smaller health policy measures, like incentives for providing service in rural communities. She also said she’d keep health care costs down by “stabilizing the insurance pool to lower premiums, prioritizing preventative care, and working to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.” Hardly the stuff of someone who wants to nationalize the health insurance system.

In a Las Cruces Sun-News article that the ad appears to cite (although it gets the date wrong by one day), Torres Small said she wanted to preserve the Affordable Care Act. Torres Small was quoted as saying, “We also have to achieve comprehensive health care so that everybody has access to affordable health care. In doing that, I’m open to pursuing all pathways.”

The ad also grossly misrepresents how a Medicare-for-all plan would work for consumers. There’s no one agreed-upon design for a single-payer system—countries around the world have various schemes—but generally, employer-based plans would be replaced by government insurance that most doctors would accept. Some doctors catering to an elite clientele could opt out of insurance altogether and only accept cash payments, but that doesn’t seem to apply to the situation in the ad, since the doctor’s office is inquiring about insurance.

Under the current system, about the same percentage of doctors accept Medicare as private insurance. (The rate is much lower for Medicaid, which reimburses doctors at a lower rate than Medicare and private insurance.) Via the Kaiser Family Foundation, here’s how that breaks down:

Still, the ad is telling of just how quickly Medicare-for-all has caught on as a mainstream concept. Many of the Democrats angling to run against President Donald Trump in 2020 have signed on to single-payer. The NRCC ad suggests Republicans will do all they can to use it against them.