After the most recent Democratic presidential debate, when South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for evasiveness on her single-payer health plan, Warren’s staff circulated a Buttigieg tweet from February 2018. The tweet indicates Buttigieg’s support for single-payer 20 months ago, which makes him a hypocrite for criticizing her now, according to the Warren camp.
Gosh! Okay… I, Pete Buttigieg, politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare, most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages, that I do favor Medicare for All, as I do favor any measure that would help get all Americans covered. Now if you'll excuse me, potholes await.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 19, 2018
In response, Buttigieg claimed, “Only in the last few months did it become the case that [single-payer] was defined by politicians to mean ending private insurance, and I’ve never believed that that’s the right pathway.” Apparently, Buttigieg never read Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill — which Sanders, a Vermont independent, introduced in September 2017 — Section 107(a) of which makes private insurance “unlawful.”
Buttigieg’s evasion follows a consistent pattern among Democrats running for president, a two-step in which candidates try to avoid angering both Americans who want to keep their current coverage and the socialist left, who view single-payer’s enactment as a shibboleth. In January, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., told the American people, “Let’s move on” from private insurance, but she later put out a health plan that she says retains a role for private coverage. Warren herself said as recently as March that she had embraced approaches other than single-payer to achieving the goal of universal coverage.
More importantly, however, Buttigieg wants to enact single-payer — and has said as much. He just wants to be stealthier than Warren and Sanders in taking away Americans’ private insurance.
‘Glide Path’: An Expressway Toward Government-Run Care
Consider a spokesman’s response to the Warren camp re-upping Buttigieg’s 2018 tweet:
Asked about the tweet, a Buttigieg aide … argued he had not changed his position, saying he supports [single-payer] as an end goal but that he wants to get there on a ‘glide path’ by allowing people to have a choice and opt into the government plan.
Indeed, the health care plan on Buttigieg’s website makes the exact same point: “If private insurers are not able to offer something dramatically better, this [government-run] plan will create a natural glide path to” single-payer.
The details of his health care proposal reveal Buttigieg’s “glide path” as an expressway to government-run care, time and time again favoring the government-run plan over private insurance. Consider the following references to the government-run plan in the health care proposal:
- “Individuals with lower incomes in states that have refused to expand Medicaid will be automatically enrolled in the [government-run plan].”
- “Individuals who forgo coverage through their employer because it’s too expensive will be able to enroll in the [government-run plan] and receive access to income-based subsidies that help guarantee affordability.”
- “Anyone eligible for free coverage in Medicaid or the [government-run plan] will be automatically enrolled.” The plan goes on to admit that “individuals could opt out of public coverage if they choose to enroll in another insurance plan,” but the government-run plan would serve as the default “option.”
- “Individuals with no coverage will be retroactively enrolled in the [government-run plan].”
By automatically enrolling people in the government-run plan — not private insurance, not the best insurance, not the most affordable insurance, but in the government-run insurance plan — Buttigieg wants to make that “option” the only “choice for Americans.”
In 2009, independent actuaries at the Lewin Group concluded that a government-run plan paying doctors and hospitals at Medicare rates, and open to individuals with employer plans — a policy Buttigieg endorsed in his campaign outline — would siphon 119.1 million Americans away from their private coverage, and onto the government-run plan:
Buttigieg calls his plan “Medicare for All Who Want It.” But given the biases in his plan in favor of government-run coverage, another description sounds more apt: “Medicare: Whether You Want It or Not.”
Buttigieg sees political value in hitting Warren from the right on health care. But recall that Barack Obama did the same thing in the 2008 presidential primaries, decrying Hillary Clinton’s proposal to require all Americans to purchase health coverage:
Obama used those attacks to wrest the nomination from Clinton, and ultimately capture the presidency. Once he did, he flip-flopped on the coverage requirement, embracing the individual mandate he had previously attacked during the election campaign.
Buttigieg wants to force all Americans into government-run care. He has said as much repeatedly. His attacks on Warren represent an attempt to sound moderate and draw necessary political distinctions ahead of the Democratic primaries.
While he may moderate his tone to get elected, don’t think for a second he would moderate his policies or do anything other than sabotage private health coverage once in office. We’ve seen this show before — but whether we will see it again remains in the hands of the American people.