The American Health Care Act recently approved by the Republican controlled House is a truly terrible bill. It would cause millions to lose Medicaid coverage to finance a large tax cut for the top 1 percent.
There is, however, one small upside for people who support a single-payer health care system. The AHCA undermines one of the most common political arguments levied against single-payer: that you can never get a majority of politicians to vote against the massive health care industry.
The AHCA was able to get a majority in the House despite opposition from nearly every health care industry group, since it would slash government spending on health care by nearly a trillion dollars.
The American Hospital Association, which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals and spent over $20 million on lobbying last year, said America’s hospitals were “deeply disappointed” with the passage of the AHCA. The American Federation of Hospitals, which spent just under $3 million on lobbying, strongly opposed it. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which spent $7 million on lobbying, said the bill “needs important improvements.” Even the conservative American Medical Association, which spent $19 million lobbying last year, came out against it.
Each of these organizations opposed AHCA because it is bad policy and because they stand to lose a significant amount of money if it becomes law. Yet, despite the opposition of patient groups and some of the biggest lobbying organizations in Washington D.C., Republicans came up with the votes for their terrible bill.
The AHCA and Medicare-for-all are diametrically opposed policies but they do have one thing in common: both would upset the health care industry by costing them real money. The AHCA would slash spending on health care for the poor while Medicare-for-all would finally stop the industry from dramatically overcharging Americans.
Many “pragmatic” opponents to Medicare-for-all on the left acknowledge single-payer would be better, but they oppose pushing for it because they claim it is politically impossible get a majority in Congress to vote against the health care industry. The House Republicans just proved this argument is unfounded.
It wasn’t easy. It took Republicans running on a promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare for seven years to build the overwhelming pressure necessary to convince a narrow majority to vote against the desires of the health care industry. But they proved with true determination and grit, it can be done. Advocates just need to build this level of pressure for Democrats to run on Medicare-for-all.
Republicans were able to get some lobbying cover for voting against the health care industry because the AHCA is also a big windfall for top executives in every other industry. The same dynamic would exist for Medicare-for-all: American business leaders are starting to acknowledge our dramatically overpriced health care is crippling every other sector. As Warren Buffett recently told investors, “medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness.”