Opinion | Sen. Bennet gets tepid response to Medicare X
Sen. Michael Bennet deserves applause for standing against the silly prospect of “Medicare for All.” It would devastate the economy and substantially dilute care for 44 million mature Americans, who spent their working years earning Medicare benefits.
As Bennet impugns the Democratic fairy tale, he should stop staking his campaign on the Medicare X Choice Act he introduced in the Senate this year.
Bennet, Colorado’s senior senator, held a town hall in Denver the day after Thanksgiving and received a predicable “who cares” response to Medicare X. Bennet has championed his plan for nearly 10 years, and it has never gained momentum. For good reason.
Medicare X would become a new buy-in option, most appealing to Americans who lack other government or private insurance. In Colorado, that amounts to 8% of the population. This is of marginal interest at most for the other 92%.
Bennet correctly reminds his fellow candidates how the vast majority of voters don’t want to leave their private health insurance arrangements. Nearly 68% of Americans earn or pay out-of-wallet for private health policies, and most desire to keep them.
Although Bennet defends private insurance as if promising to shield it, he assured the town hall crowd his Medicare X is the beginning of “universal health care.”
“I believe the fastest way to universal health care is my plan,” he said, eliciting no favorable response.
The senator cannot have it both ways. He either values a system in which most Americans enjoy private health insurance plans that compete, or he wants a “universal” system. A market of private polices and “universal health care” are antithetical.
It appears Bennet does not oppose government health care for all. He merely wants it to creep gradually into our lives as Medicare X expands. Boil a frog slowly, and it cooks before noticing the heat. He wants to separate himself from fellow contenders, simultaneously promising a slow pursuit of their vision.
Voters favoring universal care will be far more likely to embrace the immediate fantasy offered by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Opponents of universal care will understandably reject Medicare X as an insidious path to universal care. It is hard to see how this equation drives Bennet’s presidential support to 1% among town hall attendees, let alone the country’s 45 million registered Democrats.
Like nearly all politicians, Bennet ignores the true nature of the health care crisis by offering minor tweaks to the troublesome insurance market. Insurance does not serve Americans well because it cannot solve the real problem: growing demand for health care meeting a deepening shortage of health care providers.
Bennet cannot expect to gain presidential traction by fighting to give one more insurance option to a demographic comprising single-digit percentages in 35 states and less than 15% in all but Republican Texas. In the context of our country’s health care woes, this is one striking example of a small-ball approach that fails to inspire the masses.
Bennet and other politicians need to stop promising insurance solutions before addressing the underlying dilemma. Many of the country’s 46 million rural residents have no reasonable access to health care with or without insurance. Most Americans with insurance endure rationing best known as budget-busting deductibles and co-pays, caused by the demand for health care steadily outpacing the supply.
Throwing insurance at our scarcity of health care amounts to solving a crop shortage with food stamps. Coverage is not care.
Bennet and other politicians will not offer constituents anything real until they start crafting legislation to create more competitive and affordable care. We need more doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, mental health professionals and clinics in vast regions of the country.
For someone lacking access to affordable care, a Medicare X subscription could sound like a lame solution. Politicians should rethink their approach. Propose legislation to ignite a robust market of surplus health care— not more mediocre coverage — for all.
The Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board.
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