Bernie Sanders Winning The Battle On Health Care, Now Max Baucus Caves On Opposition To Single Payer

Bernie Sanders’ proposal for single-payer health care was viciously attacked by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but now Sanders is winning the debate in the Democratic Party. Kamala Harris already joined on as a co-sponsor, indicating how she sees this as the expected position for a serious contender for the 2020 nomination. It came as no surprise when Elizabeth Warren also decided to co-sponsor the legislation. The real surprise was when former Senator Max Baucus changed his position:

It’s time for America to consider seriously a single-payer, government-run health system, says Max Baucus, Montana’s longest serving U.S. senator, former ambassador to China and one of the chief architects of Obamacare.

“My personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer,” Baucus said Thursday night at Montana State University. “I think we should have hearings…. We’re getting there. It’s going to happen.”

This is significant as Baucus was a chief author of the Affordable Care Act, and was strongly opposed to even considering a single payer plan eight years ago. David Weigel provides this history lesson:

Eight years ago, as a once-in-a-generation Democratic Senate supermajority debated health-care reform, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) kept their focus narrow. As the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus was focused on passing a reform bill that moderate Republicans could support. At one point, he had single-payer health-care supporters removed from a hearing; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an advocate for Canada-style universal coverage, set up a meeting to tide them over. But he did not expect much from Baucus.

“[Is he open] to single-payer?” Sanders asked rhetorically. “Not in a million years.”

His estimate was just 999,993 years off. At a Thursday night forum in his home state, a now-retired Baucus suggested that single-payer health care could pass, and not too long from now.

It gets worse per this account from Common Dreams:

Baucus declared single payer “off the table” and had single-payer proponents arrested after they disrupted a committee hearing. Those arrested were later called the “Baucus 8.”

Dr. Pat Salomon, who was arrested alongside other physicians and activists, explained why the protests were necessary:

When we looked at the list of 41 people testifying in the three days of the Finance Committee’s roundtable on healthcare, we saw that not a single witness was an advocate of the principle that healthcare should be a fundamental human right for all in America, nor was there anyone to speak for the majority of the American people who support single-payer Medicare for All.

Maybe this is a case of a politician speaking more honestly once out of office, or perhaps it is a sign of how much Bernie Sanders has moved the discussion of health care reform. Just to raise Peter Daou’s blood pressure further in case he happens to read this, I’ll also point out that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America, while Hillary Clinton’s favorability has continued to fall since the election, and is below that of Donald Trump. Sanders being right, and Clinton being wrong, in supporting Medicare for All is just one of many reasons for this.

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