By MARSHA MERCER
After nine years of fighting Obamacare, congressional Republicans and the White House have a new bogeyman.
Look, over there, it’s a radical, socialist scheme! A nightmare that will ruin the economy! It’s Medicare for All!
When independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont Wednesday introduced his revamped proposal to transform Medicare into a universal health program, he said Americans want “a health care system that guarantees health care to all Americans as a right.”
But to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, a “Self-proclaimed socialist . . . is proposing a total government takeover of healthcare that would actually hurt seniors, eliminate private health insurance for 180 million Americans, and cripple our economy and future generations with unprecedented debt.”
The concept of Medicare for All is the latest danger du jour – and that, at last, opens a window for endangered Obamacare.
President Donald Trump has tried repeatedly to kill Obamacare by declaring it dead -- it isn’t – and Americans like it more than ever.
Fifty percent of adults surveyed last month had a favorable opinion of Obamacare while only 39 percent had an unfavorable opinion, the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll reported. That’s up from 46 percent favorable in April 2010.
Similar results among registered voters came from a Morning Consult-Politico poll taken March 29 to April 1.
Without a viable plan to replace Obamacare, Senate GOP leaders have moved on to fear-mongering about Medicare for All.
“This radical scheme would be serious bad news for America’s hospital industry,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the American Hospital Association this week. “You should not be the guinea pigs in some far-left social experiment.”
Four Democratic presidential hopefuls have endorsed Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, but he has only 14 cosponsors this time, down from 16 last year, a sign Democrats are more wary.
People like the idea of Medicare for All, polls show, until they’re told they may pay higher taxes and wait longer for care.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wisely says Congress needs first to protect the Affordable Care Act – the official name for Obamacare -- before it considers any Medicare for All plan.
The requirement to buy insurance stuck in Americans’ craw, but several surviving provisions remain popular.
About 11.4 million Americans get their health insurance through the law, and 12 more million more are covered because of the law’s Medicaid expansion.
The law protects people with pre-existing conditions – about half the population under 65 – from being rejected for health insurance or paying higher insurance premiums.
Young people under 26 can stay on their parents’ health care plans. Seniors save money on preventive care and prescriptions. Caps limit how much patients must pay annually or in a lifetime.
Trump’s obsession with obliterating all things Obama means he can’t admit there’s anything worth saving in Obamacare. His Justice Department has joined a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the entire law.
A federal appeals court will hear arguments in early July, and the case could reach the Supreme Court before the election.
Trump promises a better, cheaper health care plan to replace Obamacare by and by. Sometime. Eventually. After the election.
Democrats believe health care helped them win back control of the House. Polls before last November’s elections on which party would do a better job on health care policy found Democrats with an 18-point advantage over Republicans.
Democrats need now not to overplay their hand. Several iterations of Medicare for All legislation are in Congress. A key sticking point is cost. Some analysts say Sanders’ proposal could cost upwards of $30 trillion over a decade.
Medicare for All excites the Democratic base, but if Democrats want more than a campaign talking point, they’ll need to work deliberately and collaboratively and study the intended -- and unintended -- consequences of universal health coverage.
Now is the time to shore up Obamacare. A group of Republican senators proposes, in case the courts do invalidate Obamacare, to preserve parts of the law, such as protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
Even in the run-up to an election, saving the best parts of Obamacare is a worthy goal for Democrats and Republicans.
©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.