By Erica Payne
Originally published in USA Today
Last month’s upset primary victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a New York City district, was decisive proof: the Democrats’ path to victory requires exciting their base with a bold, fearless agenda that includes Medicare for all.
We have seen this strategy prove successful not just for Ocasio-Cortez, but also for Ben Jealous, who won a competitive primary for Maryland governor, and candidates like Kara Eastman, who won her primary against a former congressman in Nebraska.
The merits of Medicare for all have been touted by medical professionals, business leaders and health care economists for a variety of reasons: it would help drive down costs, eliminate administrative waste, increase transparency, bring down rising drug costs, and ease the costly burden of health insurance from businesses and individuals.
And, beyond the benefits of the policy, it’s a winning political strategy.
It’s not enough to fix ACA
Despite Democrats’ attempts to salvage the Affordable Care Act — a crucial law for millions of Americans — sabotage by the Trump administration and Republicans has proved highly effective. They’ve cut advertising budgets aimed at getting more young people into the insurance pool, repealed the individual mandate which helped balance out healthy and sick people, announced they won’t defend protections against price gouging for people with pre-existing conditions, and just froze billions of dollars in payments meant to help insurers cover sicker policyholders.
As a result, the uninsured rate rose last year for the first time since the bill was enacted in 2010 — 12.2% of Americans are now uninsured. While the ACA has managed to slow the rate of premium increases, they are still rising faster than wages and the inflation rate.
To win, Democrats need to do more than just point fingers at Republicans and claim they’re destroying the ACA. Candidates need to take it one step further: Make Medicare for all a central part of their platform.
This message draws a clear line in the sand: Republicans want to strip you of your health insurance, while Democrats want to offer low-cost, universal coverage. It’s an endorsement of universal health care that doesn’t waffle, and isn’t complicated.
Unlike the Affordable Care Act, Medicare for all is not difficult to understand, and sells itself on its merits. It appeals to patients drowning in medical debt, doctors and medical professionals buried in paperwork, workers who are shouldering more of their premium costs, and business owners who year after year are forced to devote more resources to keeping their employees insured.
It excites a group that Democrats desperately need to get to the polls — younger voters, who strongly support it.. And it shows that a candidate is willing to take on special interests on behalf of their constituents.
Medicare for all is a better insurance system
Voters want to hear a positive message around health care: recent polling data revealed that preserving health care is the top voting issue for Americans. Democrats can be the party offering a bold and viable solution.
They need to tell voters how they’re going to make things better, how they’re going to defend health care as a basic right, and how they’re going to create a new system that better serves the needs of patients, workers, small and mid-sized businesses, and the economy. They need to really differentiate themselves from the Republicans and show that they speak for people first, not the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
Medicare for All is more than just the right thing to do, and it’s more than just good policy. It’s good politics.
Erica Payne, the founder and president of the Patriotic Millionaires and The Agenda Project, serves on the board of advisers to the Business Initiative for Health Policy.