Health care and the 2016 elections

A Kaiser poll in January found that, while support for single payer Medicare for All hovers around 50%, only 8% of Americans would base their vote on the issue. I assume that many or even most of the readers of this newsletter are part of that 8%. What options do we have in the 2016 elections?

Bernie Sanders, of course, has made improved Medicare for All a major plank in his campaign.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is campaigning for re-election in November. He has consistently, to my knowledge, maintained support for private insurers, though his waiver plan did look like a good path to state innovation until the administration’s guidance on these waivers reduced states’ flexibility. For reasons that may have little to do with health care, Wyden is facing a number of opponents in the primary, one of whom, Kevin Stine, states: “I believe health care should be a basic human right in our country, and not be doled out on the basis of your income level. We should work towards a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.”

There is not a great deal of support for publicly funded health care among the candidates for the U.S. House. Incumbent Suzanne Bonamici (D) in District 1 accepts that paying for care can be a struggle, and that the ACA is “not a perfect law,” but does not appear to have an alternative suggestion. Incumbent Greg Walden (R), District 2, has voted to repeal Obamacare every time he has had the chance. Incumbents Earl Blumenauer (District 3), Peter DeFazio (District 4), and Kurt Schrader (District 5), all Democrats, do not mention health care on their campaign websites. One of the candidates for District 5, Dave McTeague (D) “supports eventual adoption of a 'Medicare For All' system as advocated by Senator Sanders. He would oppose Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act; although he believes it can be improved, starting with the public option that was not in the original act.”

Here is where the parties in Oregon stand.

The Constitution Party stands firm for the free market: “Socialized medicine tends to produce more and more sickness and less efficient treatment of sickness. We oppose government medical insurance scams of all varieties. It is the role of the private sector to respond to free market demand for goods and services, and of private charity to underwrite those needs that are under-funded.”

The Democratic Party of Oregon has unfortunately not updated their website since their platform convention was held in early March. Their draft platform states: “We believe in a comprehensive single-payer system of healthcare.”

Not surprisingly, the Libertarian Party of Oregon supports the free market.

The Independent Party of Oregon says nothing about health care.

The platform for the Pacific Green Party of Oregon states “Institute a single-payer health care system for Oregon by seeking a waiver from the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, just as Oregon got a waiver for the initial introduction of the Oregon Health Plan (1993).

Until a single-payer system is instituted, no private health care insurance provider will be permitted to operate in Oregon unless it covers preexisting conditions, contraception, and abortion services for all its members.”

The Oregon Progressive Party supports “Medicare for All” comprehensive health care.

The Oregon Republican Party thinks “A free market system of health insurance and health care delivery is the surest way to provide high-quality affordable health care that preserves individual freedom and privacy.”

And the Working Families Party endorsed Sanders nationally. But the state party’s big health care issue is paid family leave.

--Jo Alexander, Corvallis