John Delaney Gets His 15 Minutes of Fame with “Medicare for All” Squabble
Standing out in the Democratic Presidential field, which at last count has hit the number 23, takes quite a bit of doing. One way is in succeeding in getting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (Soc.-NY) to tweet about your candidacy.
Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney accomplished this feat as a result of telling a convention of California Democrats: “Medicare for all may sound good but it’s actually not good policy nor is it good politics. We shouldn’t kick 150 million Americans off of their health care.” [i]
The California Democrats responded to Delaney’s heresy with a full sixty seconds of booing. (A minute may well be nearly as much face time as any individual candidate can expect in the Democratic Party’s upcoming debates.)
Giving Delaney probably the highest profile his campaign has had to date, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, weighed in via twitter with her own comment:
“Since there’s so many people running for President (& not enough for Senate), instead of obsessing over who‘s a “frontrunner,” maybe we can start w some general eliminations. This awful, untrue line got boo’ed for a full minute. John Delaney, thank you but please sashay away.”[ii]
Clearly, today’s Democratic Party has come a long, long, long way on healthcare from a decade ago in which President Obama promised again and again: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” referring to health insurance changes under the Affordable Care Act. [iii]
For 2020 Democrats, “Medicare for All” has become an irresistible bumper sticker to promote single-payer health care. However, support saps away when the details are shared.
According to a recent opinion survey conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56% of the public likes the idea of ‘Medicare for All’ in theory. That is until, they are told the policy would ‘require most Americans to pay more in taxes,’ at which point support plummets to 37%.[iv]
Last year Maryland’s Democratic nominee for Governor, Ben Jealous, made imposing a single-payer health plan on the state his signature issue. It played well to Democratic primary voters. Maryland’s media and Jealous’ Democratic opponents largely gave him a free pass when he claimed a single-payer would “save the state money.”
In fact, a Maryland single-payer health care plan was costed at an estimated $24 billion, an amount that exceeds the state government’s tax revenues from all sources. Maryland’s nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services calculated that the state would have to levy a 10% payroll tax against every business and charge a $2,800 fee for every man, woman, and child in the state.[v]
When a possible single-payer healthcare was costed for California, a legislative analysis put the cost at $400 billion annually.[vi] That level of taxes and spending would have exceeded all the revenues already generated by the state’s taxes, which currently includes a top 13.3% income tax rate and a 7.25% state sales tax.
Vermont adopted a single-payer health care system in 2011. That is, until the bill came in. The state found that the cost would have been $4.3 billion a year, almost the size of the state’s entire $4.9 billion budget. It would have required an 11.5% payroll tax on all Vermont businesses and an income tax hike of up to 9.5%. (The state’s top income tax rate of 8.95% is among the highest in the country.)
Faced with these numbers’ sobering reality, Vermont backed away in 2014 from implementing its single-payer healthcare plan.
Strategizing Democrats preparing for the 2020 Presidential election need not rely just on John Delaney’s word regarding the “bad politics, bad policy” of “Medicare for All. A call to “Maryland Governor” Ben Jealous to find out how the issue fared for him in 2018 could help as well.
[iii] PolitiFact found 37 instances in which President Barack Obama or a top administration official said something close to “if you like it, you can keep it.” https://www.politifact.com/obama-like-health-care-keep/