A member of the House Democratic leadership was accused of echoing insurance industry talking points after she raised concerns about the price tag of Medicare for All—without mentioning the significantly higher cost of the current for-profit healthcare system.
"I don't understand why the chair of the DCCC is trying to divide Democrats by putting forward talking points from Republicans and insurance corporations."
—Waleed Shahid, Justice Democrats
"I think the $33 trillion price tag for Medicare for All is a little scary," Rep.
Bustos was apparently referring to a study published last year by the Koch-funded Mercatus Center, which found that Medicare for All could cost $32.6 trillion over a ten-year period.
But the study also found that Medicare for All could save the U.S. $2 trillion compared to the status quo—while insuring every American.
In a column earlier this year, the Washington Post's Paul Waldman argued that any concerns about the potential costs of a single-payer system must be weighed against current U.S. healthcare spending, which is the highest in the industrialized world.
"You have to compare what a universal system would cost to what we're paying now," Waldman wrote.
While acknowledging that $32.6 trillion is "a lot of money," Waldman continued:
[Y]ou can't understand what it means until you realize that last year we spent about $3.5 trillion on healthcare, and under current projections, if we keep the system as it is now, we'll spend $50 trillion over the next decade.
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Again, you can criticize any particular universal plan on any number of grounds. But if it costs less than $50 trillion over 10 years—which every universal plan does—you can't say it's "unaffordable" or it would "bankrupt" us, because the truth is just the opposite.
Responding to Bustos' remarks, the progressive advocacy group CREDO Mobile tweeted: "You know what's more than a little scary? 1) Tens of millions of Americans without health insurance right now. 2) People dying and going bankrupt because our healthcare system is broken. 3) Democratic officials using GOP talking points to argue against popular policy ideas."
You know what's more than a little scary?
1) Tens of millions of Americans without health insurance right now.
2) People dying and going bankrupt because our health care system is broken.
3) Democratic officials using GOP talking points to argue against popular policy ideas. https://t.co/ZRF3c8soa2
— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) March 6, 2019
Bustos also told The Hill that Medicare for All would be disruptive for the millions of Americans who receive insurance through their employers, a misleading line of attack that has featured prominently in the insurance industry's campaign against single-payer.
"What do we have—130 million-something Americans who get their health insurance through their work? The transition from what we have now to Medicare for All, it's just hard to conceive how that would work," Bustos said. "You have so many jobs attached to the healthcare industry."
Waleed Shahid, spokesman for the progressive advocacy group Justice Democrats, denounced Bustos' comments as divisive at a time when Medicare for All is quickly gaining support in the Democratic Party.
"As the leading Democratic presidential contenders increasingly unite around Medicare for All and the Green New Deal," Shahid said, "I don't understand why the chair of the DCCC is trying to divide Democrats by putting forward talking points from Republicans and insurance corporations."