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1/11/20

Elizabeth Warren is sabotaging single payer, again

Elizabeth Warren is telling voters in Iowa that "people are uneasy...about big changes in health care."

This is true, but Warren is not talking about "changes in health care" like changes in your network or increased premiums or getting kicked off of your plan altogether. Those are the changes that plague Americans constantly, and drawing attention to those changes is how you convince them that we need to get rid of private insurance altogether - but that's not what Warren is doing.

What Warren is doing is singling out one change in particular: the final shift from private insurance to single payer. This of course is not a change that anyone in the US has experienced, it has not caused any suffering or harm whatsoever, and in fact it would end an extraordinary amount of harm and suffering for Americans. But instead of drawing attention to the advantages of single payer and the disadvantage of private insurance, Warren is doing the exact opposite.

And that's why Partnership for America's Health Care Future, the health insurance industry's most aggressive lobbying front, is promoting what Warren said:


 She is repeating a standard talking point that advocates for single payer have fought to debunk since it is so damaging to the cause. Spotlighting the hypothetical pain of transition to single payer is obviously a good way to prevent that transition from ever taking place, which Warren's two-step plan seems custom-built to do.

This isn't the first time Warren has been off-message. Just a month ago, NYMag's Sarah Jones drew attention to another PAHCF talking point:
The ad is slick; the actors, suitably concerned. “We can’t afford one-size-fits-all plans,” a woman protests. Her complaint, written for her by the Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future — a front group for private insurers, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies — is a simple one to grasp. She doesn’t want Medicare for All. She wants choice: the choice to keep her private health-insurance plans, to tell the government to butt out.
Focusing the debate over health care on "choice" - narrowly meaning a choice among whatever the private market has to offer - is a good way of minimizing the good that single payer can do. That's why opponents of single payer routinely invoke the virtues of choice. But they aren't alone:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been using new, notable language at her town halls to describe the transition into "Medicare for All" -- saying, under her plan, it would be a voter's "choice" to opt in...it's a notable rhetorical shift on Warren's part after her moderate Democratic rivals -- namely South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- have criticized her plan that would eventually eliminate private health insurance.
Why does Warren keep adopting private insurance industry talking points? I don't think it's hard to figure out. Warren has fallen so far in the polls that she is now close to the 15% threshold that she needs to meet to win delegates. And the only way to come back, she has decided, is to advertise her capitulation to the conventional wisdom of the health insurance industry. If winning votes means sabotaging the fight for single payer, that is a tradeoff that Elizabeth Warren is willing to make.