Former Single-Payer Hater Now Loves the Idea

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is one of the primary reasons Obamacare did not include a public option or some other form of government-run insurance program open to everyone.

In his capacity as chairman, Baucus categorically ruled out the possibility of passing some form of single-payer program while the contents of the Affordable Care Care (Obamacare) were still being considered, but in 2017 he's finally come around to the idea.

Back then, Baucus said, he felt adamantly that Congress wouldn’t pass a government-run system like Canada’s. So it was the one alternative he refused to put “on the table” for consideration.

But you can see the difference, Baucus said, when you visit hospitals on either side of the border. In Montana, half a rural hospital will be dedicated to processing medical insurance claims. In Canada, he said, just one small room is needed to verify that patients are residents.

And Americans pay much higher drug prices, he said, because the government can’t negotiate better prices with the drug industry, so U.S. patients end up subsidizing drug prices for the rest of the world.

No shit?

I suppose it's better late than never, but come on. He built this. I can't say he was the only reason this didn't happen, because he isn't, but he never even gave it a chance.

Now, Baucus did say something else that I won't quibble over. He lamented the demise of earmarks and "pork" spending because they were useful tools for convincing members of Congress to support far more important legislation. I doubt anyone would tell you so-called "pork barrel" spending didn't need to be reformed, but eliminating it entirely probably did more harm than good.

Of course, we eliminated that kind of spending at a time when the Republican party and the village pundits became obsessed with deficit reduction at the expense of all other things. You know, after the first black president took office. Fast forward to 2017 and the GOP is seriously considering passing an even worse version of the deficit-financed Bush Tax Cuts.

It's a minor miracle that Obamacare passed even without the elements some of us would like to see.

  • muselet

    Max Baucus could have looked at the differences between hospitals on both sides of the US/Canada border back when the ACA was being debated. If he’d done so, he’d have found the same discrepancy in resources dedicated to insurance busywork. He’d also have noticed the distinct lack of uninsured Canadians seeking medical care. Americans paid far higher drug prices then, too, compared to Canadians.

    He chose to ignore those differences.

    But now that he’s safely retired, he discovers some innate curiosity about such things.

    Color me unimpressed.


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  • Aynwrong

    Just to point out… Max Baucus is a Democrat. Keep that in mind the next time some cable news jackass pundit spews some factory canned pap about how the D’s are so “far to the left.”

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  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    The problem is that, to spite Obama, the Red Shirts poisoned the well against Single Payer. Catastrophically so.

    Their base, who might otherwise have come around to it, are no so militantly against it that it’s going to be a generation before the Republicans are willing to touch the idea.

    This is what happens when all you care about is winning.

    • gescove

      The denizens of that poisoned well often do not realize that the ACA and Obamacare are actually the same thing. They like the former, hate the latter. The same phenomenon might play out here. Medicare (for All) versus Single Payer. Love the former, hate the latter. Ignorance is bliss?