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Making Medicare For All Palatable For All

by Kevin Kelton

The good news is that Elizabeth Warren has pledged to explain in detail how she would pay for her Medicare For All plan. The bad news is that Warren has pledged to explain how she will pay for her plan.

The truth is, there is no good way to explain single-payer Medicare For All without acknowledging it will require some form of tax increases and abolishing popular employer-sponsored private plans. But there are ways to make it more palatable to a larger swath of its skeptics and make it a winning issue in the general election.

Here’s how Warren (or any candidate) could make a version of the Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All proposal palatable to a majority of voters, borrowing from the public option Medicare For All Who Want It proposals:
  1. Admit that there will be a cost component, and call it a healthcare surcharge. (Not a “tax.”) Make it clear that the surcharge replaces your current premium, and is guaranteed to be lower than what they’re paying now. Promise Americans that they will get a one-time full tax deduction for any overage between the Medicare healthcare surcharge and your 2025 private insurance premium. (Assuming that’s the fourth and last year of of the roll-in period.) In other words, you can’t lose!
  2. At the end of the four year roll-in period, allow Americans an additional three year “exemption” from switching to Medicare for people opting to stay with their employer-sponsored plans, but charge them a portion of the healthcare surcharge for each exemption year — 20% of the full surcharge for the first exemption year, 40% of it the second exemption year, and 60% the third year. This will induce reluctant Americans to give up their private employer-sponsored plans and opt-in to Medicare coverage.
  3. Write into the law that companies currently offering employer-sponsored plans must devote at least  70% of the savings they get from winding down those plans to salary and benefits increases for their employees. In other words, employers cannot pocket the savings. That will give union workers some confidence that even though they are losing their low-cost workplace coverage that they fought hard and sacrificed for, they will make up for it in higher salaries and benefits.

Done this way, you can still sunset private insurance but over a seven year window instead of four, which would be less jarring for the economy, and gradually bring reluctant consumers into the Medicare For All fold on their own timetable.

Kevin Kelton is the founder of the Open Fire community of Facebook discussion groups and a cohost of The More Perfect Union Podcast.

Democrats Need Their Own MAGA

by Kevin Kelton

As we head into the 2018 midterm elections, it’s astounding that the national Democratic Party still has yet to formulated a coherent message to voters. While President Trump and the GOP rally around simple, bumper sticker messages like MAGA, Build The Wall, and Drain The Swamp, the Democratic party cannot form a coherent message that can appeal to both liberal voters on the coasts and midwest working-class voters. This was a critical failing of the 2016 Clinton campaign, and it will be just as damaging to Democrats going forward if the party doesn’t speak to the voters it needs to win.

Here’s a proposal for a simple, clear four plank Democratic platform to retake congress and the White House. I call it The Campaign for American Justice:

1) Healthcare justice — expanded, reasonably priced healthcare using a mixed economy approach with the goal of quality healthcare for all.

2) Economic justice — tax incentives and economic incentives to get private employers to raise wages and decrease the wealth gap; make higher education more accessible and affordable to all.

3) Social justice — working with courts and local authorities to promote racial justice and reduce violence. This includes smart gun laws and better police training to reduce accidental deaths.

4) Political justice — reducing the power of money in politics and increasing voter participation.

The overriding theme of justice was chosen because it appeals to Americans across ideologies and demographics. Instead of promoting specific programs like “medicare for all” or “guaranteed jobs” (both toxic ideas to free market conservatives), the focus should be on the goal of finding a range of bipartisan solutions to promote justice in healthcare, the wealth gap, racial and social issues, and politics.

Rather than insisting on one pre-measured legislative cure like single payer health insurance, Democrats would be better off to identify the problems we face as a nation and offer a variety of proposals to solve them. “Drain the Swamp” isn’t a policy, it’s a goal. So is “Make America Great Again.” Even the seemingly specific “Build a Wall” is a euphemism for the goals of a stronger border, cultural hegemony, and economic security.

People want to vote for ideas that reinforce the good in America. They don’t need a position paper on each issue with cost breakdowns and detailed legislative language. Tell them what you stand for, and give them a reason to stand for it, too.

And without saying it explicitly, a campaign for “American justice” suggests a counter-balance to the corruption and lack of candor that is the hallmark of the Trump White House. A subliminal message that Democrats will stand for a better America, a fairer America, a just America.

Whether it be the Campaign for American Justice or another theme, Democrats need to start branding their party now so voters fed up with Trumpism have something to vote for in November.

 

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics on Facebook.