One topic of conversation in the Republican race for the White House has been whether President Obama has been incompetent, or actually knows what he’s doing. On the matter of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare, self-declared socialist Professor Gerald Friedman seems to agree with conservatives that it can’t and won’t work. Friedman, a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “Medicare for All” single-payer plan, says that Obama and his advisers knew that the ACA was a “bad idea” that would not control costs, and that a total federal takeover of the health care system was inevitable.
The problem with a federal takeover of health care is that it would bankrupt the U.S., leading to left-wing demands for even more federal control. This is how socialism is coming to America.
More than two years ago, in an article entitled, “A Century and Counting: The Campaign for National Health Insurance,” Friedman wrote, “After a century of struggle, the ACA commits the United States to providing universal access to health care. This is a great achievement, one to be treasured and nurtured. Now the real fight begins, to turn this commitment into a reality that the ACA itself cannot produce. Barack Obama was right the first time: only a single-payer program can provide universal coverage, and only a single-payer program can control costs. The ACA may be the last bad idea that Americans try; after it fails, we will finally do the right thing: single-payer health insurance.”
A “single-payer” plan means the federal government would abolish the private health insurance market and eliminate private health insurance companies. “Private plans divert health care spending into channels that do nothing to actually deliver health care, such as advertising and profit,” argues Friedman.
Speaking to the Illinois AFL-CIO on June 30, 2003, Obama said, “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
I asked Friedman, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), if he thinks Obama knew that the ACA wouldn’t work when he proposed it as President. He said, “It depends on what you mean by work, I suppose.” He added, “I’m sure that Obama knew—and economists around him knew—that this program, the Affordable Care Act, would not control costs.”
Obama said his plan would cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year. Since then, health premiums have climbed an average of $4,865 for family plans.
Trudy Lieberman, past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct professor of public health at the CUNY School of Public Health, says that while Obama is still telling Americans that the ACA provides “affordable, portable security for you and your loved ones,” the news coming from Ohio and Colorado is telling a different story: “one of less security and unaffordable insurance.” Lieberman, a contributor to the Remaking Health Care blog of the Center for Health Journalism at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, says that in Colorado, for example, premiums “always on the high side, are now out-of-reach.” She notes, “Health insurance premiums are as high as mortgage payments, sometimes exceeding $2,000 a month.”
Dr. Tracy C. Miller, an associate professor of economics at Grove City College and fellow for economic theory and policy with The Center for Vision & Values, had predicted this kind of outcome. Among other problems, he wrote, “Premiums will rise to reflect the higher health care costs of those who purchase insurance, making insurance too costly for people with good health who do not qualify for government subsidies.” He added that rising costs could be addressed through government-imposed rationing. However, he said, “Expanding access to health care without cost control will further hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. government. If that happens, fewer people will have access to health care than was the case even before Congress passed the ACA. If the ACA’s provisions to expand access to health care survive, don’t be surprised if the U.S. government eventually faces a sovereign debt crisis similar to what Greece is now facing.”
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) was in on the deception. He told the Las Vegas PBS program, Nevada Week in Review, that the ACA was “a step” toward a single-payer system. “Reid said he thinks the country has to ‘work our way past’ insurance-based health care,” the Las Vegas Sun reported. “What we’ve done with Obamacare,” Reid said, “is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.”
The costs will keep rising, especially under the single-payer plan. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says that Sanders’ proposed offsets to pay for his $14 trillion program “would cover only three-quarters of his claimed cost, leaving a $3 trillion shortfall over ten years.”
Sanders calls his single-payer plan “Medicare for All,” arguing that Medicare “has succeeded in providing near-universal coverage to Americans over the age of 65.” Dr. Jane Orient, Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, counters, “What will Sanders do about the more-than-$40 trillion in promises Medicare has already made without provision for the revenue to pay for them?” Referring to Sanders’ single-payer plan, she added, “What does he imagine will happen when he adds on the demands of the entire rest of the population, and removes any brakes on utilization like co-pays and deductibles?”
Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told me that Sanders has not offered full-blown socialist proposals, only “New Deal liberalism.”
But the DSA, which endorses Sanders, goes far beyond “New Deal liberalism” and the nationalization of the health insurance industry. DSA National Political Committee member David Green has written, “Our goal as socialists is to abolish private ownership of the means of production.”
This is a complete socialist takeover. By accident or design? We report, you decide.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org