Remember Universal Coverage?

Bernie Sanders is not happy.

(Image courtesy of The Nation)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is not comfortable with the negotiations on the $3.5T Build Back Better infrastructure bill.

Sen. Sanders is scowling.. again. His scowl has more to do with ongoing negotiations carving out the ‘social safety net’ portion of the bill than “Sen. Manchinema’s” ‘discomfort’ with the $3.5 T price tag. Reminding cable audiences that for him and his Progressive colleagues $3.5 T is a compromise — from the original $6 T ask — Sanders and company are watching their legislative initiatives get “nickel and dimed.”

It is not fun.

Hence, the scowl. Sanders has reason: universal health care coverage, ‘health care for all,’ is not on the Build Back Better bus.

Fast backward to 2017 and a taped interview with then former President Obama that aired on the Bill Maher show.

Maher asked Obama what was the one area he wished he had done better, what was his one regret. Obama didn’t hesitate: ‘universal coverage.’ Why not?, pursued Maher, ‘You had the votes.’ Again Obama didn’t hesitate: ‘I didn’t want to put 40,000 insurance workers out of a job.’ Sensing that he had no prepared response to Obama’s calculus of protecting American health care versus putting professionals out of a job, Maher quickly segued to discussing legalizing marijuana, one of Maher’s sacred cows.

During the 2020 Democratic Presidential. Campaign, “universal coverage,” as a transformative concept went through the same mind muddling organ grinder as the ‘Green New Deal.’ The idea that the government would ensure health care for all, smacked of ‘big brother,’ albeit a benign ‘big brother.’ We were fighting a ‘nanny state’ takeover by the Dems.

Imagine taking away our preconditions, the chutzpah!

In response and on the campaign trail America heard Democrat candidates twist and turn ‘universal coverage’ into policy ‘wonkydom.’ We heard sound bite schemes with terms like ‘single payer,’ ‘single insurer,’ ‘immigrant carveout,’ ‘guaranteed coverage,’ ‘opt out provision,’ ‘medicare for all.’

Republicans ratcheted up the ‘nanny state’ smear, calling Democrats ‘socialists,’ whose wayward logic would bankrupt the government. And Republicans’ pushed the absurd refrain that instead of giving you something, government was coming to take away the health care you couldn’t afford.

As the Presidential campaign continued and HRC won the nomination, it became clear that the concept of ‘universal coverage,” that no citizen would be excluded or suffer from not getting health care, was being sidelined by ideological musings about the size of government.

Sanders countered that ‘universal health care coverage is a right, not a privilege.’

America paused. And the pandemic hit her shores.

Where are we today?

There are are less uninsured today (20.6 million) than there were pre-ACA (45 million). This number — 20.6 — though, exceeds the population of New York State.

While making deals, political rhetoric of the smoke and mirrors variety besieges the public space. As legislators file in and out of Congressional chambers, their fraught sound bites caught on cable are intentionally vague. It’s a game lawmakers play with their cable celebrity counterparts: ‘I’ll give you a nibble, you give me a bite.’ ‘Universal health care coverage’ is not explained. If the media couldn’t address the impact of UHC in 2017, how will the media do it in 2021 during COVID-19?

So we don’t know. But what we do know is the silence on health care coverage debate during the BBB mark-ups.

We know what people say is ‘in the bill;’ we don’t know what will stay.

Then Vice President Biden brokered votes for Obamacare on Capitol Hill. He worked the chambers, using the strategy of ‘aim high, settle less, get more that you thought…’ The strategy worked and Obamacare passed. In 2021 the White House is pursuing a similar strategy by packaging enough social legislation in ONE BILL that sheer complexity of moving parts dictates removing pieces — carve outs — to move the legislation along. One can hear the mantra of ‘aim high, settle less, get more that you thought…’

To counter this strategy conservatives have sought political cover in questioning the total dollars of the funding not the distribution of funds. This way Republicans could appear fiscally responsible while jettisoning social safety net legislation.

What’s different during this funding cycle is that some Democrats are adopting the Republican counterfoil.

Friday, September 24, Biden exasperated, asked the Democrat hold-outs, ‘Give me a number.’

No answer.

Where are we today?

Follow the cut backs, the carve outs, the sacred cows.

Ask why scowling Sanders, alone occupies the snarky “what bills have you authored that have passed” space. Could it be simply that Sanders takes his job seriously, eg. make legislation?

Or is it that other Senators take credit for cheating the American people?

September 28