Is Medicare for All Elitist?
Are policies like Medicare for All elitist? On Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden published a blog post in which he argues that the criticism he’s faced for not supporting the bill written by Sen. Bernie Sanders is representative of “an elitism that working and middle-class people do not share: ‘We know best; you know nothing.’” Reeling from reports of financial distress and decreased polling numbers in key primary states, Biden published a blog post on Medium defending criticism he’s faced from unnamed rival candidates. Biden has been a vocal critic of Medicare for All, telling a town hall in Iowa that if implemented “we’re going to raise your taxes, a middle-income person, as Bernie acknowledges — he’s honest about it — 5 percent and 4 percent in terms of your deductible, as well as 4 or 5 percent on your income tax. I don’t think you can sustain that.” While Sanders and Warren argue that the tax increases would be readily offset by the money Americans would save on medical spending, Biden (and the newest candidate on the scene Michael Bloomberg) maintain that the plan is financially untenable.
Biden has recently been engaged in a public debate with Sen. Warren regarding his criticism of the bill. With the plan still maintaining support amongst over half of Americans, Warren has argued that “if anyone wants to defend keeping those high profits for insurance companies and those high profits for drug companies, and not making the top 1% pay a fair share in taxes, and not making corporations pay a fair share in taxes, then I think they're running in the wrong presidential primary.” The basis of Biden’s Medium post hinges on this quote, with Biden arguing that it’s inherently elitist to claim that writing off his proposed policies “reflect an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics. If someone doesn’t agree with you… that person must be a coward or corrupt or a small thinker.” Biden’s ‘progressive’ health care proposal involves accommodating the insurance and drug industries by allowing citizens to opt-in to a private insurance plan, the idea of which is inherently incompatible with Sanders’ and Warren’s preferred bill. Medicare for All is generally defined as some of the most progressive legislation currently being popularly supported, and it would put harsh restrictions on the health insurance industry that Biden’s plan wouldn't - which makes his rebranding of Warren’s support of the bill as ‘elitist’ all the more inflammatory.
While this democratic primary campaign may seem volatile in rhetoric at times, it’s important to remember that criticism of an opponent’s policies are an integral part of the primary process. The discussion around Medicare for All needs to happen in an in-depth fashion, and as the Democratic National Convention approaches, we hope to hear more thorough discussion surrounding the economic implementation of Sen. Sanders’ bill. While entertaining, hollow attacks that one candidate is ‘elitist’ or ‘shouldn't be running’ aren’t tremendously substantive.