Medicare for All Lost Big Time in the Midterms

Democrats won big during the midterm elections earlier this month. As of this writing, they appear to have picked up 39 seats in the House of Representatives.

But Medicare for All — the rallying cry for much of the far left — lost big time. Voters outside liberal enclaves rejected candidates who touted their support for socialized medicine.

That was wise. Medicare for All would saddle Americans with trillions in new taxes and diminish the quality of health care available in this country.

Before the election, Medicare for All looked like a political winner. According to one Reuters/Ipsos poll, 70 percent of the public — including most Republicans — supported the idea.

Across the country, enthusiastic progressives touting their support for single-payer health care beat moderate Democrats in primaries. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously unseated the number-four Democrat in the House, 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley. Kara Eastman beat a centrist Democrat in the primary for Nebraska’s second congressional district.

But single-payer did not fare as well in the general election. Not counting incumbents, 111 Democratic candidates gunning for the House backed Medicare for All. Of those, only 19 won their elections.

Moreover, just eight flipped their districts from red to blue. So Medicare for All supporters won just one in five House seats flipped by Democrats.

Five of the eight seat flips were in true-blue California, where only one in four voters is a registered Republican. Two seat flips happened in Pennsylvania districts that had been redrawn to make them Democratic strongholds.

Only one Democratic candidate — Kim Schrier in Washington’s eighth congressional district, east of Seattle — flipped a competitive House district while campaigning on Medicare for All. That victory is more or less offset by Republican Pete Stauber’s victory in Minnesota; he took a seat back for the GOP by defeating a Democrat who supported Medicare for All.

Medicare for All also fared poorly in statewide races. Every new Senate candidate who endorsed single-payer lost. That includes progressive favorite Beto O’Rourke, who was handily beaten by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., despite glowing media coverage and a mountain of campaign cash. The only twoSenate seats Democrats flipped were won by candidates who didn’t support single-payer.

Nor did gubernatorial candidates who advocated for single-payer do well. In deep blue Maryland — where over 60 percent of voters supported Hillary Clinton — just 43 percent backed Medicare for All supporter Ben Jealous. In Massachusetts, single-payer advocate Jay Gonzalez barely mustered one-third of the vote. In Florida, progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum lost to Republican Ron DeSantis.

Democrat Gavin Newsom appears to be the exception to this rule, as he declared his support for single-payer during his successful run for governor in California. But he has also said on the campaign trail that single-payer won’t take root in California “by the signature of the next governor.” He, of course, is that next governor.

Arizona provides another clear illustration of Medicare for All’s status as a political poison pill. There, Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia backed single-payer health care. He got just 41.5 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema opposedMedicare for All — and won.

Voters in red states, purple states, and even some blue states recognize Medicare for All for what it is — a sham. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s bid for Medicare for All — S. 1804, which was introduced in 2017 and is virtually certain to be reintroduced next year — would set in motion a complete government takeover of health care. His plan would essentially ban private insurance. Everyone would get shunted onto a one-size-fits-all government policy.

The plan would cost the federal government an additional $32.6 trillion in its first ten years, according to research from the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous. Even doubling federal corporate and income taxes would fail to cover that eye-popping bill.

Plus, that’s likely a low-ball estimate, as it assumes doctors will accept payments at Medicare’s rates, which are 40 percent lower than what private insurance currently pays.

Medicare for All would also provide substandard care. Canada’s single-payer system forces patients to wait a median of more than 21 weeks to receive treatment from a specialist after a referral from a general practitioner. In some areas, those waits are far longer. In New Brunswick, for example, patients wait a median of 42 weeks for treatment.

Consequently, many patients seek care elsewhere. In 2016, more than 64,000 Canadians traveled to other countries for medical care. That was a 40 percent jump from the year before.

Even in an election cycle that heavily favored Democrats, Medicare for All was a loser. Single-payer may continue to prove irresistible to progressives — but voters are giving it the thumbs-down.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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