Messaging around Medicare for all

On healthcare, I’m pretty convinced that some kind of single-payer system is by far the optimal policy. I’m less convinced about the politics than are many single-payer proponents. But I’m certainly onboard with efforts to build support.

Amid signs that this is happening, the emerging Republican argument is essentially that “Medicare is awesome… and America just can’t afford that for everyone, so, senior voters, better that others go without so you can keep what you have all to yourself.” In a sense it is a less obviously ridiculous, but more obviously selfish, update of the 2010 “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare” message.

The other day, a suggested response occurred to me: “OK Republican, whom do you want to leave without healthcare? Please be specific.”

Because this seems like the weakness in the “Medicare for all would mean Medicare for none” message: it’s based on activating a fear that America can’t afford for everyone to have healthcare. Doing this has implications.

The implication of a “can’t afford M4A” message is that there just isn’t enough healthcare to go around. Republicans using this message should have to specify whom they think should go without, then.

This seems like a potentially more promising line of response than going into the weeds of trying to prove why we can afford it. The Republican message, here, is about stoking doubt and fear, and a debate is compatible with that.

So instead, insist that Republicans specify whom they want left without healthcare, if their proposition is that America can’t afford for everyone to have it. If they want to pit Medicare enrollees against others, demand that they come out and say whom. Most likely they will sputter and try to come up with some complicated reason why that isn’t what they meant, but let them sputter. It damn well is what they meant, and should be made plain.

Not just single-payer proponents should be pressing this question, but journalists too, in my opinion. It’s a serious question! Republicans are essentially warning that “someone must go without.” Is not “OK who” a pretty fair follow-up question?

This post is an edited collection of notes originally posted to Twitter, here.

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