The Washington Post

Next stop for liberals after SCOTUS: Medicare for All?

If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare tomorrow, how should Dems and liberals respond?

Rep. Peter Welch’s suggestion: They should mount a concerted push for Medicare for All — and run hard on it in this fall’s elections.

Of course, even Dems did manage to unify behind such a message — which is unthinkable — Medicare for All could never get through this Congress or the next. But Welch says Dems should do it, anyway — to stake out a very clear position in the wake of Obamacare’s demise, and to draw a very clear contrast with Republicans on an issue where they’re already viewed with skepticism by voters.

“If the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare, we have to have a substantive policy and political response — in my view, that’s Medicare for All,” Welch said. “Medicare is very popular. People understand it.”

It’s becoming clearer that Republicans will offer no meaningful alternative to Obamacare’s most important provisions if they’re struck down. Welch suggested using Medicare for All to highlight this fact — and to sharpen the contrast with the GOP embrace of Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, which will be a big issue this fall.

“If we have repeal by the Supreme Court, we’re back to ground zero — the Republican goal of a health care system that’s in the iron grip of the insurance companies,” Welch said. “Our question has to be very much in your face to Mr. Boehner — where’s your Plan A?”

“If we argue for Medicare for All, it would reinforce our commitment to Medicare and highlight the Republican plan to turn it iinto a voucher system and unravel it,” Welch continued.

Dems are unlikely to unify behind such a message, to put it mildly. Dems couldn’t muster 60 votes in the Senate for a Medicare expansion to the age of 55 after the public option was pronunced dead.

But there’s an argument for taking a long view here. The millions of uninsured aren’t going away. Health care costs will continue to rise. And as Ezra Klein noted recently, if Obamacare is struck down, Dems and even Republicans are likely to begin working towards incremental expansions of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and eventually, we’ll move towards something resembling single-payer, with more and more Americans covered by public insurance. It will take a long, long time, and as Ezra noted, along the way “there will be a lot of unnecessary suffering and deaths.”

Other liberals aside from Rep. Welsh are beginning to coalesce around a long-term message that sets up Medicare for All as their ultimate goal — and they’re likely to press other Dems to follow suit. “It works, it’s popular, and people know what it is,” Welch said. “It’s got a lot of stuff we should have done from the beginning.”

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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