With fewer than 50 days until the Iowa Caucuses, the two central issues in the 2020 Democratic Primary are healthcare, and defeating President Donald Trump. The latter quite frankly goes without saying, since the whole idea of an opposition candidate in an election is to unseat the incumbent, so anyone who runs mainly on ousting the current President tacitly admits to standing for nothing beyond his or her own vacuous self-advancement.
As for healthcare, this issue has permeated the debate for two reasons: the ultimate ineffectiveness (if not outright failure) of the Affordable Care Act, and the self-described “revolutionary” campaign of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has made Medicare For All his signature policy this cycle, perhaps even eclipsing the broader remonstrations of wealth inequality that have formed the spine of his entire political career, and attacked the topic with his characteristic dogged relentlessness.
Thus, every other Democratic candidate has had to define themselves according to Sanders’ terms on the issue: the few who have agreed with his declaration that healthcare is a human right have generally reaped windfalls in polling and grassroots fundraising—at least up until they began to hedge, like Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris before her, whose once top-tier campaigns began their respective free-falls practically the moment each uttered the usual weasel-words of “access” and “affordable.”
It still remains to be seen if, like Harris, Warren’s decline is terminal.
Meanwhile, the contrasting corner of the debate has been firmly staked out by Joe Biden, who’s chipped away at his own initial lead practically every time he’s opened his mouth. Whether he’s challenging critics to push-up contests, publicly sucking on his wife’s fingers, or even forgetting the name of the guy whose association is the only reason he had a lead in the first place, the man is clearly not well, but his legislative history shows his support of privatized insurance over single-payer is long-held and genuine, rather than a mere cynical ploy to distinguish himself from Sanders, or the unfortunate product of dementia.
The remaining candidates find themselves jockeying for quantum superposition between pretending to agree with Sanders about nationalizing health insurance while simultaneously assuring their corporate overlords that they’ll never abandon the privatized status quo.
They’re trying to have their populism, and eat it, too.
The most devious is probably Pete Buttigieg, who could barely hide his contempt for all the dumb, unwashed masses upon whose votes he now depends by giving his official plan an astoundingly asspull-sounding name like “Medicare For All Who Want It.” At best, this is a public option deliberately made to be unsustainable, as it would result in all the poor and sick being shunted off to it without any of the wealthy and healthy necessary to keep the scales balanced, before being ultimately dismantled and cited as “proof” that “government-run” healthcare “doesn’t work.”
We’ve already made that mistake with the ACA—we don’t need to do it again.
All the other candidates’ healthcare proposals, if they even have them, boil down to much the same thing. The one possible exception is Andrew Yang’s free-market YangScrip solution, which seems to ignore the fact that even routine medical procedures under a privatized system often exceed a $1000-a-month pittance, and life-threatening emergencies always cost orders of magnitude more.
My early sketches for this drawing featured a withered, old Uncle Sam in the hospital bed, but then I realized that might undermine the message somewhat, since senior citizens already get Medicare. Thus, the woman in the bed is instead based on Nataline Sarkisyan, a teenager who tragically died of liver failure in 2007 after her family’s insurance found a technicality over which to deny an expensive transplant (though I have to admit my caricature isn’t terrific, as I made her hair way too curly).
People recognized at the time how barbaric this was, and bombarded the insurance company (Cigna) with complaints, bad press, and (I assume) threats of physical violence until they relented, but by then it was too late.
Ms. Sarkisyan died, and every one of the executives who presided over the decision immediately became guilty of negligent homicide.
Have they suffered any consequences for it?
I think you know the answer.