More than a decade ago, Barack Obama ran for president repeatedly pledging that under his health care platform, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” Of course, that promise turned out not to be true—millions of Americans received cancellation notices as Obamacare took effect, and PolitiFact named Obama’s campaign pledge its “Lie of the Year.”
Given that tortured history, liberals appear to have come up with a simple and succinct slogan to explain their next round of health “reform:”: “If you like your current plan, go f— yourself.”
Medicare for None
In a CNN town hall forum Monday evening, newly announced presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) made clear she plans to eliminate all private insurance as part of the move to single payer health care:
Moderator Jake Tapper claimed during the discussion that Harris supports “Medicare for All,” but in reality, the legislation she co-sponsored during the last Congress would eliminate Medicare, along with every other existing form of health insurance save two: the Indian Health Service and Veterans Administration coverage. In short, Harris supports nearly 300 million Americans losing their current form of health coverage.
Just as telling: Harris’ blithe dismissal of Americans who might prefer to keep their existing insurance. She claimed that, under single payer, “You don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork.” Never mind that single payer systems have long waiting lists, which bring paperwork of their own. Harris then brushed away Americans’ concerns about losing their health coverage with a flick of the wrist: “Let’s move on.”
Obama demonstrated a very similar paternalism when confronted with the controversy surrounding his false “like your plan” promise. In October 2013, as healthcare.gov remained in meltdown mode, he delivered a speech at Faneuil Hall in Boston that included this passage:
There are a number of Americans—fewer than 5 percent of Americans—who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident. Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy. So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.
Obama minimized both the number of people with cancelled plans—“only” a few million—and the quality of the coverage they held. The message was clear: You may think you had good health coverage, but I know better.
It’s Not About Health Care
Some people wonder why I continue to write about the well-heeled Obamacare supporters—including heads of exchanges—who refuse to buy Obamacare coverage for themselves. For a very simple reason: Those individuals, and Harris, and Obama’s remarks all get at the very same point. Obamacare, and single-payer coverage, aren’t really about health care—they’re about power.
Liberal elites consider themselves intellectually superior to the great unwashed masses, whom they must protect from themselves. That reasoning motivates Obamacare’s “consumer protections,” which act to prevent people from becoming consumers, because liberals don’t want individuals to buy health plans lacking all the features they consider “essential.”
Viewed from this perspective, it makes perfect sense that liberal elites making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year—enough money to afford their own plan, even without an employer subsidy—have no interest in enrolling in Obamacare themselves. After all, if one thinks voters not competent to pick out their own health plan, one might tend to believe that voters will also not pick out the hypocrisy of someone making more than $400,000 per year selling Obamacare plans who refuses to buy one himself.
An Ironic Campaign Start
The day before her CNN town hall, Harris launched her campaign in Oakland. At the event, which included her campaign slogan, “For the People,” Harris claimed she will “treat all people with dignity and respect.” In making those comments, Harris likely wanted to contrast herself with President Trump’s tone—his temperament, tweets, and so forth.
But one can make an equally compelling argument that Harris’ platform, and her comments one day later, belied her own rhetoric. Pledging to terminate the health coverage of nearly 300 million people might strike some as treating the American people with a distinct lack of respect.
While Democrats may want to make the 2020 campaign a referendum on Trump, elections also present voters with choices. If their party nominates a candidate who reprises liberals’ past mistakes of talking down to voters—“deplorables,” anyone?—they might face a second straight election night shocker.