Nearly 30 million people still don’t have health insurance in the United States; among those who do, many are paying enormous premiums that go up year after year. Others rely on crowdfunding platforms for medical care. It’s a grotesque and deadly system, which is probably why universal healthcare polls so well across political lines. Despite all this, a powerful group of establishment Democrats have teamed up with billion-dollar insurance companies, hospitals, and the drug lobby to fight back popular momentum in support of Medicare-for-All.
These private industry players have come together under The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a coalition that was created “to combat an expanded government role in health care,” Politico reported on Monday. The Partnership is also leaning heavily on alumni from the Clinton and Obama administrations to run its operations. This includes hiring the consulting group Avalare—founded by former Clinton White House official Dan Mendelson—to do research; former Obama Health and Human Services and Clinton campaign staffer Lauren Crawford Shaver to run operations out of the lobbying group Forbes Tate Partners; and former Obama campaign aide Erik Smith to do communications. Campaigning on behalf of the insurance industry remains, as always, a lucrative business.
More from Politico on the entities they’re carrying water for:
America’s Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association helped found the coalition alongside the Federation of American Hospitals, the big drug lobby PhRMA and the American Medical Association.
In Congress, one of the most vocal elected officials in favor of preserving the status quo of the Affordable Care Act is incoming Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Neal told Politico, “We want to continue promoting the idea of accessibility and improving the Affordable Care Act. That should be the primary goal that we have.” Back in August, Neal echoed this sentiment, telling the Daily Hampshire Gazette that single-payer advocates needed to “calm” their efforts and that “in the modern lexicon it’s never enough.” According to reporting by Sludge, over his career, Neal has taken in $950,000 from health professionals and associations, $750,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, and $2.4 million from the insurance industry (a category which includes the health insurance industry).
As Ways and Means Chairman, Neal will have enormous power over the fate of any Medicare-for-All effort, given that the committee writes tax law and controls revenue, and any universal healthcare effort would fall under that umbrella. This is why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is currently vying for a seat on the committee that was previously occupied by the man she beat—Joe Crowley.
Establishment Democrats are warning that pushing for universal healthcare could mean risking gains already made under the Affordable Care Act—the same fear-mongering tactics that Hillary Clinton’s campaign employed in 2016. The difference this time around is that this backlash comes in the face of voters, who, according to a Reuters survey, now support Medicare-for-All by 70 percent, and elected a number of progressives in the midterms who specifically campaigned on the issue. The question for Democrats now is who they’ll stand with—their voters or the insurance industry that’s slowly crushing them.
Correction: A previous version of this post misnamed the website Sludge.