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Republican opposition to expanding healthcare coverage is based on lies and fear-mongering

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David Brooks is the New York Times’ token “conservative” columnist. He’s not a hardcore rightwinger, and he’s not 100% behind Trump in everything. But Brooks is, ultimately, a Republican, which means his overriding motivation, when he writes a column, is to undermine Democrats. That’s exactly what he did the other day, in a piece so misleading, the Times really should not have run it.

The column was about “Medicare For All,” the proposal to extend America’s successful Medicare program to everybody, not just people 65 and older. Medicare For All has been embraced by just about every Democratic politician, from our California Governor, Gavin Newsom, to of course presidential candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders. There’s no precise meaning to the phrase, but still, the concept is enormously popular among the American people: a year ago, a Reuters-Ipsos poll reported that Medicare For All was supported by an overwhelming 70% of Americans.

More recently, however, Republicans have made much of the fact that another respected poll, from Hill-HarrisX, found that only 13% support universal coverage (which Medicare For All would accomplish). Did the idea suddenly run out of steam? No. What Republicans didn’t tell you was that this was only if “universal healthcare” means private health insurance was completely eliminated, leaving Medicare For All the only option available. In fact, the Hill-HarrisX poll also presented other options: universal coverage with a private supplement had 32% approval, while universal coverage with a private opt-out had 26% support. In other words, universal coverage, in some form or other, had the approval of 71% of the American people, while only a puny 29% were opposed to it in any form.

David Brooks argues that, while Medicare For All sounds good on paper, “the trick is in the transition” from the current welter of systems into whatever will replace it. He paints what is certainly an overly-gloomy picture, and a misleading one, of what that transition would look like. “[P]ublic health care would destroy this [insurance] industry, and those people would have to find other work,” he laments, as if it were the duty of the American people to keep the medical insurance industry alive and profitable. I don’t feel that way; do you? Hospitals, he warns, would close. (No proof of that is offered.) Doctors, he threatens, would suffer (again, offering no proof), while “Similar shocks would ripple to other health care workers.” Again, no proof, not even a logical argument. Brooks’ final scaremongering is that patients would find themselves waiting endlessly for doctor appointments—again, no evidence to point towards that conclusion.

Each of Brooks’ scare tactics has been a healthcare industry P.R. device for decades. Whenever any change was proposed to the exclusively-private nature of healthcare provision, the hospital-Big Pharma-insurance industry cartel has launched a massive advertising campaign to scare Americans out of their wits; and the Republican Party has cooperated in that scare campaign to mislead the American people. Now, they’re at it again, using so-called moderate Republicans, like Brooks, to carry their water.

No doubt that a complete transition from our current patchwork system to one of 100% universal healthcare, run by the government, cannot be done overnight. Nor is anyone proposing that it can. What Democrats are proposing is simply to make the current system better, more efficient and inclusive, and cheaper. Why Republicans should stand in opposition to such sensible goals is understandable only when you consider that (a) Republicans in the Congress have a gold-standard health insurance program, one that is far better than almost anyone else has, and they don’t care about anyone else; and (b) they know that if they stand in solidarity with the healthcare cartel, they’ll be able to get more campaign contributions from it, and also to get lucrative lobbying jobs when their constituents finally throw them out of office. Americans should not be deceived by Republican opposition to better healthcare coverage. As with most Republican positions, it’s not good for most people.

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