Politics

Work with GOP on Health? Only if It Involves a Government Takeover

Asked about fixing Obamacare, Illinois congresswoman calls for a single-payer system

Democrats have insisted for months that they are willing to work with Republicans to fix flaws in Obamacare if only the GOP is willing to compromise.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) gave an idea of what many in her party think “compromise” should look like, telling CNN that she always has been willing to “sit down and work something out” — as long as it gives the federal government a significantly larger role.

Asked by CNN anchor Poppy Harlow if she is willing to give a little if Republicans give a little, Schakowsky called for a wholesale adoption of government-run heath care.

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“Let me say this: I think it is time for us to at least consider stopping all these contortions,” she told CNN. “I want you to think about the number of dollars that are now spent on health care by the federal government that would encourage us to move to a single-payer system. You’ve got Medicare, Medicaid, the children’s health insurance, the veterans insurance. And why not?”

Harlow and co-host John Berman offered the obvious response — because it’s incredibly expensive. Berman said that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) estimated that the single-payer health plan he campaigned on while running for president last year would cost $1.3 trillion a year. High-end estimates by independent experts reached as high as $2.8 trillion.

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Berman noted that the Democratic legislators in the senator’s home state backed off from a single-payer plan because of the costs. A similar proposal has stalled in California for the same reason.

Harlow asked if there was a reason the idea never has been tried in the United States.

“No, there isn’t a reason, because it hasn’t been tried on a national level, and you know, we spend more — way more — on health care than any other country in the world,” Schakowsky answered. “And we actually have worse outcomes. Why? Because so many people are not insured.”

She continued: “Do you understand how much we’re spending now and talking about subsides — not only for individuals, which I certainly agree with, but also for insurance companies, which we need to stabilize the market?”

Schakowsky made clear that she does not consider minor tinkering with the Affordable Care Act, as some of her Democratic colleagues have suggested publicly, to be sufficient.

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“Obamacare right now is at a point that where when we fix it, we could do a real fix … We could do better with a single-payer than even a fix to Obamacare,” she said.

If Schakowsky cannot get a full-fledged single-payer health system, she suggested her “compromise” would be a “public option” that would let the federal government compete directly with insurance companies in the private market. Congress rejected the idea when it passed the Affordable Care Act.

“We ought to at least consider that,” she said.

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