Just a few short weeks ago, Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass looked like she was pulling ahead in the polls. She was more articulate than Biden, less curmudgeonly than Bernie, and had lots of policy ideas.
Lots and lots of policy ideas, most of them, like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, part of the great liberal project to remake the United States of America into a more socially just society.
As they say in politics, that was then, and this is now. As of this writing, Warren is running third nationally behind Biden and Bernie and third in Iowa and New Hampshire behind Buttigieg and Bernie.
If those numbers hold up and are translated to results in the primary, Warren will be following Kamala Harris into the also-ran category by sometime next Spring, if history is any guide.
What happened? The Week provides some clues by pointing out that the fall of the popularity of Medicare for All coincided with Warren’s fall in the polls.
“At the same time, according to Quinnipiac, only 36 percent of voters deem Warren’s version of Medicare-for-all a ‘good idea,’ and 52 percent think it is a ‘bad idea.’ As recently as August 2017, the split was 51-38 in Warren’s favor.”
So how was it that the prospect of “free” healthcare suddenly became unpopular with the voters?
“People don’t like it when their existing entitlements are disrupted. This is especially true of health care, whether it is interrupted by more government (think ObamaCare) or by attempts to reduce government (think Trump-era efforts to repeal ObamaCare). “
Moreover, the dirty little secret in the healthcare debate is that people who are on private health insurance plans and by and large happy with them. People on private plans, especially those provided by their employers, can go to the doctor pretty much when they want to and get treatment for diseases in a timely fashion.
Stories about people who have been wiped out by catastrophic diseases such as cancer tend to be rarer than one would imagine by reading media accounts. Healthcare providers are willing to allow people to pay their bills with easy payment plans.
Hence, when politicians like Warren declare that people are going to go on Medicare for All, a lot of people hear that they are going to lose their current health insurance. Some higher information voters have heard of the horror stories of death panels, waiting lists, and substandard care coming out of Canada and the UK where something like Medicare for All already exists.
The fact that Warren refuses to acknowledge that the middle class is going to be socked with higher taxes to pay for the privilege does not help matters. Bernie Sanders admits that his version of Medicare for All will require a tax increase that hits people besides the rich and corporations. Bernie claims people will save money in the end by not having to pay premiums and co-pays.
The American Spectator points out that Warren and Medicare for All have started to lose support because other, more moderate Democrats such as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg started to attack the healthcare scheme’s shortcomings.
Both of the two candidates who are battling it out in the moderate lane are proposing a new entitlement called Medicare for All Who Want It. The theory is that if one does not have health insurance, for any reason, they can opt for the public option.
“Fifty-eight percent of all voters support an optional buy-in on Medicare (just 27 percent oppose). The idea resonates even among Republicans, with nearly half labeling it a good idea.”
Some analysts have pointed out that Medicare for All Who Want It is a back door to Medicare for All. The idea is that employers will be able to dump the expense of carrying health insurance for their employees onto the government. The scheme favored by Biden and Buttigieg also does not come with a price tag, unlike Medicare for All which is estimated to cost in the many trillions of dollars.
Still, the popularity of Medicare for All Who Want It provides a warning for conservatives.
“Its popularity helps explain the success of Buttigieg and Biden, its two most prominent backers. It also explains why Republicans skittish about the idea of again expanding government involvement in health care need to come up with a competing plan or inevitably lose this debate by default.”