How To Make Medicare For All More Politically Palatable

Perhaps the most important campaign issue of the 2018 Congressional election was healthcare. The Republicans, led by President Trump, were accused by Democratic candidates of wanting to allow private insurance companies to reject tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

private insurance

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In addition, despite the president’s frequent assurances that after Obamacare was abolished, it would be replaced with a much better Republican healthcare insurance program. Regretfully, the details of that plan were never revealed.

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So in the upcoming 2020 elections for the presidency and Congress, the Democrats would love to once again make healthcare their leading issue. But during the Tuesday evening Democratic presidential debate, it became apparent that there was a major schism between Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and a few of the more “moderate” candidates.

Sanders and Warren strongly endorse the introduction of Medicare for All, which would extend that program to nearly all Americans under the age of 65. Private healthcare insurance would be largely abolished.

As Sanders repeatedly pointed out, our nation’s healthcare costs per capita are nearly double what they are in every other relatively wealthy nation. By eliminating huge administrative costs and price gauging – especially by the giant pharmaceutical companies – we could bring down the cost of our medical care to the level of these other nations. And better yet, every American would now be guaranteed free healthcare.

I believe that Sanders is correct. But tens of millions of Americans are quite happy with their current private insurance coverage – even if, in many cases, they might receive better coverage under Medicare for All. But this would leave the Democrats with a major political problem.

Not only would these folks not want to switch to Medicare for All, but they would be driven into the waiting arms of President Trump and his Republican Congressional allies, who would maintain that they would not take anyone’s medical insurance away from them.

So how can the Democrats solve this problem? There’s a very obvious answer.

Rather than force people to give up their private insurance, why not allow them to simply opt into Medicare for All on a voluntary basis? Sanders actually hinted at this during this debate.

In the year 2021 we could allow everyone aged 60 to 65 to opt into Medicare. A year later, those 55 to 60 could opt in. And so forth.

Would this work? There’s just one way to find out.




About the Author

Steve Slavin
Steve Slavin has a Ph.D. in economics from NYU, and has written twenty math and economics books, including “The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It, and What We Can Do to Fix it.” The 12th edition of his introductory economics text came out in September.