Bernie Sanders performs a health care comedy skit (illustrated)


You don’t have to like or agree with Bernie Sanders to at least appreciate he’s more serious about health care than the entire Congressional GOP.

Republicans can’t even explain the last-last-last-last-last-last-ditch effort to kill Obamacare they’re about to vote on — how could they, when the bill was written in just a couple weeks and almost nobody has had or will have a chance to read it.

Meanwhile, Sanders is methodically laying the groundwork for a health care debate that probably won’t play out for a year or more.

The last Republican bill, same as the first: another pathetic joke

Republicans have a self-inflicted hard deadline of Sept. 30 to ram through the Graham-Cassidy bill (named after its authors, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy). It’s the last iteration of a desperate and hypocritical attempt to fulfill a stupid promise to repeal Obamacare, made to voters who have no understanding of what Obamacare does.

It’s self-inflicted because, like the last several versions of repeal, it’s narrowly crafted to get the support of exactly half the Senate. It does the bare minimum it needs to get passed, without doing any of the dealmaking and working with experts to understand and account for the ramifications. So there is no margin for error — any Republican who doesn’t vote for it comes close to guaranteeing its failure. No Democrats are going to support it.

But because of the arcane rules of Congress, if it doesn’t get passed by the end of September, such a proposal will need 60 votes. That means it will need some Democrats, and no amount of half-baked tweaks are going to make it tolerable to them. So Republicans have doomed the effort by repeatedly cutting corners for the past year, trying to rush it through, time and time again — instead of doing the hard, slow work of building consensus.

It’s hypocritical because that’s exactly what they accused Democrats of not doing with Obamacare — even though it’s exactly what they did do, taking more than a year to craft the proposal.

And it’s stupid because the bill will abolish a federal system and demand 50 new state systems pop up in its place relatively quickly, when states are not any smarter and certainly aren’t more prepared to do so.

Many states would lose billions in health care funding, including swing states like Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida. In fact, of the 10 states with Senate seats most likely to flip parties in 2018, seven would lose money — making it more likely that Democrats would take over the Senate and then take up their own health care reform.

And that’s just the obvious stuff I would expect politicians to think about, to say nothing of how cruel the bill actually would be if it passed. For starters, it would allow states to determine what preexisting conditions (like, say, cancer) will cost people to cover, and could let insurers cap what they’re willing to pay toward their treatment.

Yes, it would get rid of the hated individual mandate — but not without a ton of collateral damage and increased costs.

The Bernie bill: A first draft that won’t pass even a Democratic Congress

Just like many Republicans ran for president to secure book deals and FOX News gigs (looking at you, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson) Bernie Sanders basically ran for president so he could have a big platform to slag on the wealthy beneficiaries of economic inequality and to push his Medicare-for-all health plan.

While he may have gotten a glimmer of hope in his eye somewhere on the campaign trail, many of his supporters understood his odds of winning were almost zero and that he was instead trying to pull the Democratic Party to the left. Many moderate Democrats are still bitter about it, and repeatedly point out he isn’t a “true” Democrat — but he succeeded.

You can see it in the party platform, which adopted his call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and Wall Street reform, and you can also see it in the cosponsors of his new bill: 16 Democrats, including high-profile senators likely to run for president at some point such as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

While it doesn’t have the backing of current party leaders like Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer, prior to his popular presidential campaign, Sanders wouldn’t have been given the time of day by most of the Democratic Party. Now, they’re forced — and many are happy — to reckon with his ideas. In a nutshell, his plan would…

  • Phase in over four years, offered first to seniors, older adults, and children and gradually include younger adults
  • Eventually insure everyone, with somewhat higher taxes likely for many people but no insurance premiums or deductibles to pay
  • Be cheaper overall for many
  • Offer greater access to care
  • Provides comprehensive care, including dental and vision
  • Enable doctor and hospital visits without out-of-pocket costs, although some prescription drugs would still require co-pays
  • Leave veterans with their existing system
  • Help transition insurance industry workers to new careers

Where the bill is murkiest is on the most important part: how to pay for everything. New taxes on both employers and workers are likely, and there would likely be higher taxes on the wealthy. That means this bill, as it sits, wouldn’t go anywhere even in a Democratic Congress.


But actually setting specific improvements as policy goals, considering the ramifications, then hashing out what they’re worth to us as a nation is exactly how this is supposed to go. It’s not supposed to be, “voters who have no clue what they’re talking about asked me to get rid of this thing from this guy they don’t like, so I’m just going to vote yes.”

That’s not what we elect people for. We elect them to do the hard work people like Bernie Sanders are doing, and get a career’s worth of sneering and mockery for. We elect them to dream big and then make it work, without leaving people out in the cold.

Even when their party isn’t in power, we expect them to come up with ideas and work to make them viable — and already this is more promising than the seven years Republicans have spent trying to repeal Obamacare. Maybe by 2020 we’ll actually have Trump’s “something terrific.” For the first time in a long time, I’m not entirely sarcastic when I say that.

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Article last modified on September 12, 2018. Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: We Can Finally Talk Seriously About Healthcare Again - AMP.

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Article last modified on September 12, 2018. Published by, LLC .