Medicare for all is dead because Democratic voters aren’t buying it

Fixing Obamacare and adding a public option is the health care policy territory first staked out by Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Writing about Biden’s plan recently on my blog, I said:

If the Democrats capture the White House, keep the House, and take over the Senate, no matter who they elect as President, this Biden health care outline, not Medicare for all, will likely be the plan Democrats embrace in 2021.

Not even I thought Elizabeth Warren would act so quickly to move off her only days-old detailed Medicare for all plan and onto about the same place all of the leading Democratic candidates, save Bernie Sanders, sit on health care — just fixing Obamacare and adding a public option.

Why did Warren back off on Medicare for all? Because Democratic primary voters weren’t buying it. According to the RealClearPolitics’ average of national Democratic primary polls, coming in the wake of her detailing her Medicare for all plan,  Warren dropped from a high of 27 percent in October’s average to 16 percent at the end of November. In New Hampshire alone, her support fell by half, while she lost five points in Iowa during the same period.

To be accurate, Warren has said that she would first enact a voluntary public option, toward an eventual move to Medicare for all, over a period of three years, as she built public support for a single-payer system.

That is a fine political rationalization — spin — but it also represents a lack of electoral confidence in her own Medicare for all position just days after releasing a detailed plan for how she would pay for it.

As the Washington Post’s Dan Balz recently described her health care policy dilemma:

Then a few weeks ago just before a big Iowa Democratic Party fundraising dinner that drew all the candidates, Warren answered her critics by issuing a financing plan for Medicare for all. She had experts who vouched for the soundness of the financing plan, but other experts picked it apart as unrealistic, based upon some overly rosy assumptions. To the broader audience of Democrats, it didn’t pass muster.

Then Avik Roy said this about her Medicare for all financing plan:

Elizabeth Warren’s health care plan could increase the deficit by more than $15 trillion over a decade. The Warren plan is overly optimistic in its effectiveness at raising tax revenue without harming economic growth. In addition, the plan will incentivize soaring demand for health care services, increasing health care spending.

With less than a year to go to the November 2020 election, and starting from a point where most of the candidates supported at least the notion of single-payer only a few months ago, Bernie Sanders now stands as the only top tier Democratic candidate calling for Medicare for all.

In an October post on my blog, I pointed out that the HMO heavy iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF stood at a depressed $161 a share price because all of the Democratic talk about Medicare for all. I suggested that buying HMO stocks would be a good idea with virtually no chance any such plan could get through even a Democratic Congress in 2021.

The most recent price for this HMO-heavy ETF was $195 — benefiting from all of the recent Democratic backpedaling on health care. That is a 20 percent gain in just over a month.

I hope you took my investment advice.

Robert Laszewski is president, Health Policy and Strategy Associates and blogs at Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review.

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