Editorial: Health care proposal detracts from urgent issues

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

The last health care bill Congress voted on would have left 22 million Americans without health care. Thankfully, it failed — but in its place are radical new suggestions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) introduced a new bill in the Senate today that he’s calling Medicare for All, and for the first time single-payer health care has broader Democratic support. The group of Democrats supporting Sanders is being called the “hell-no caucus,” and includes potential 2020 presidential candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

But a staunch opponent of the previous GOP health care bill is missing from the list of supporters — Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who told reporters Tuesday that he wouldn’t pledge support for a bill he hasn’t seen.

In today’s Congress, supporting bills blindly can be dangerous. In fact, even Sanders took to Twitter to mock Senate Republicans by posting a photo of a blank piece of paper that he joked was the GOP bill.

But as it stands today, Sanders’ bill might be just as empty. Of course, the defender of transparency wouldn’t hide his bill from sight like the GOP did, but there are major holes that should make potential supporters like Casey wary.

Sanders suggests paying for the increased cost of single-payer health care for all by raising taxes, among other things. But as The Washington Post reports, the size of the tax increase would be determined in a second bill. And even if Medicare for All passed, a probably then-revised tax plan would make progress nearly impossible.

Yes, it’s true that single-payer health care probably improves everyone’s quality of life. But presenting a half-finished bill to a divided, inefficient Congress won’t make anything better. Sanders’ decision to proceed with his health care bill without including a funding plan sets the bill up for failure — and in turn, ignores the fact that to fix our broken healthcare system, the first step is to figure out how to pass something.

Sanders knows this. There’s no way the bill would pass, given the Democrats’ division over the issue and the GOP’s majority. Many theorize that the bill was proposed as a way to suggest the future of the Democratic Party, because many of his major co-sponsors are slated for candidacies in 2020.

But proposing bills like this, while a good message toward an ever left-leaning voting base, distracts our representatives from dealing with truly pressing matters like reforming immigration before DACA expires in six months or providing urgent aid to places in the South affected by the recent slew of hurricanes.

As removed as we are from Washington, D.C., proposing solutions is nearly impossible. But we do know that now is the time for ugly options, compromises and hopefully progress. The bill that eventually changes our health care system will not be beautiful — it will be the result of long, hard work on both sides of the aisle, and it may not satisfy anybody.

Then again, passing bills isn’t about satisfying politicians — it’s about actually changing lives.