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A new healthcare initiative casts the promotion of a universal healthcare system as "polarizing," though 53 percent of Americans support government-run healthcare. (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

Medicare for All Advocates Rip 'Cynical and Dishonest' Healthcare Initiative as Ploy to Undermine Single Payer

"The path already exists. The movement already exists. The political will exists. What's lacking is a willingness to stand up for values that people already agree with for fear of alienating people like Bill Frist."

Julia Conley

Medicare for All advocates on Wednesday denounced a new healthcare initiative introduced by a bipartisan group of former lawmakers, health policy administrators, and healthcare sector CEOs.

Critics argue that the non-profit, United States of Care, ignores the majority of Americans who back government-run healthcare for all, instead catering to centrist Democrats in Washington who pledge to "ensure that every single American has access to quality, affordable healthcare" while insisting that a universal healthcare program—like the ones that exist in every other industrialized country in the world—is unfeasible.

The group, whose co-founders include former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who led efforts to privatize Medicare, is ambiguous about its plans for the American healthcare system, vaguely promising on its website to "change the conversation and put healthcare over politics."

But another co-founder of the new group, former Medicare and Medicaid administrator Andy Slavitt, has been clear about the group's opposition to a single-payer healthcare program.

"We believe every single American should have access to basic, affordable care," Slavitt told Modern Healthcare of the organization's mission. "But we avoid using language like 'universal coverage' that is polarizing."

In fact, single-payer healthcare has more public and political support than ever before, with 53 percent of Americans telling Kaiser Health Tracking, in a survey last year, that they supported a government-funded program.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All proposal has 16 co-sponsors, including several who are considered likely Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

The United States of Care puts forth three guiding principles for a healthcare plan for the U.S., writing that every American should be provided, an "affordable source of care," "protection from financial devastation," and a program with "political and economic viability."

"Of course, the left has a policy that ticks off all three boxes: Medicare for all," writes Matt Bruenig at the People's Policy Project. "Medicare for all achieves universal, affordable care. If you set the tax level at the right spot, it is 'fiscally responsible' and, because it basically annihilates the private insurance industry, it is almost impossible to undo later, meaning it is politically sustainable."

In a post on Medium, Katie Halper was one of several progressive critics who argued that the United States of Care has been specifically organized to stop single-payer healthcare from becoming a reality.

According to Bloomberg, "the organization is trying to prepare for an eventual opening for bipartisan policy making, while heading off increasingly volatile swings in health policy when political fortunes shift in Washington."

But if that interpretation is correct, warned Halper, "United States of Care exists to stop Single Payer in its tracks," not promote universal healthcare.

If that's the case, she continued, "this organization's very existence speaks to the strength, popularity and political viability of Medicare for All. And this would make its opposition to not pragmatic but ideological, cynical and dishonest, since one of the arguments against single payer is that it lacks a political mandate."

While the group insists that it's "building and mobilizing a movement to achieve long-lasting solutions that make health care better for everyone," critics on social media were among those arguing that the project ignores the reality of robust and growing support for Medicare for All.

For example, when former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau claimed to be a "Medicare for All advocate," but complained there is no movement to "get there," he got immediately flayed by progressive critics.

"I would give you the benefit of the doubt," said another, "but you've been in politics long enough to know that you're bullshitting us, Jon."

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