As some Senate Democrats offer up half-measures that fall far short of Medicare for All and rush to distance themselves from Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) expressed support for eliminating private insurance, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) on Wednesday made heavy use of buzzwords and verbal gymnastics—with phrases such as "the moniker of what you call the concept"—in an attempt to paper over these substantive and crucial healthcare policy differences within the Democratic Party.
"If a Democratic presidential contender offers you Medicare for All, read the fine print."
—Addy Baird, ThinkProgress
"I think we have to look past the surface-level name for it," Wasserman Schultz said during a CNN appearance when asked about Harris' remarks and what Medicare for All really means.
"The moniker of what you call the concept, which we are all fully embracing, is that healthcare is a right and should not be treated as a privilege that is only available to those who can afford it," the Florida congresswoman continued. "That is what Democrats are for, that's what you'll see every Democratic presidential candidate be for. And, as you would expect, they will take different approaches to getting there."
Wasserman Schultz went on to dismiss "the black and white choice of are you or are you not for Medicare for All" as meaningless, arguing that the more important "litmus test" for Democrats is "making sure that everyone in America can get access to quality affordable healthcare."
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Health care is a right and should not be treated as a privilege...That is what Democrats are for, that’s what you’ll see every Democratic presidential candidate be for…they will take different approaches to getting there." pic.twitter.com/r6PZ7hJ2zL
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 30, 2019
Single-payer advocates have long warned of efforts by politicians to co-opt Medicare for All as a useful and popular campaign slogan while stripping the program of its substance. As Common Dreams reported last week, Medicare for All advocates have also denounced Democrats like Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and others for advocating various incremental public option plans that would not adequately confront America's for-profit healthcare crisis.
Concisely summarizing the wariness among longtime single-payer activists, Addy Baird of ThinkProgress wrote on Wednesday, "If a Democratic presidential contender offers you Medicare for All, read the fine print."
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Harris' remarks in support of eliminating the private insurance industry—which her team has since walked back—during a CNN town hall earlier this week intensified an ongoing national conversation about what Medicare for All would actually look like and how the transformative policy might be implemented.
Warren Gunnels, policy director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointed to the Vermont senator's Medicare for All Act and emphasized in a tweet on Tuesday that Medicare for All "ain't a slogan. It's a 94-page bill."
There's only 1 bill in the Senate that guarantees health care as a right, saves families & businesses thousands a year & reduces total national health care expenditures by at least $2T over 10 years. It ain't a slogan. It's a 94-page bill: #MedicareForAll https://t.co/gvw1aBOXa5
— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) January 30, 2019
Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All—a single-payer campaign organized by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—declared that the recent "obfuscation" by Democrats on the definition of Medicare for All is why they go out of their way to "define Medicare for All according to five guiding principles":
This kind of obfuscation is why we define Medicare for All according to five guiding principles:
— DSA for Medicare for All (@dsam4a) January 30, 2019