Why A Republican Forced Democrats to Vote on Single Payer Today

July 27th 2017

Thor Benson

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced a Medicare for all expansion amendment to the Republican health care bill on Thursday, but he didn't do it because he actually supports single-payer health care.

According to multiple reports, Daines introduced the amendment to get Democrats on the record as supporting or opposing single-payer, as the amendment itself had no chance of passing due to a lack fo Republican support. That information could be used against Democrats in less liberal parts of the country, where single payer isn't a very popular idea, during the 2018 election.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a vocal advocate of Medicare for all, sniffed out Daines' plan early.


"As I understand it, Senator Daines of Montana today is going to introduce legislation for a Medicare-for-all health care system. That's very interesting. I hope, I hope that this is really a breakthrough on the part of my Republican colleagues," Sanders said on the Senate floor Thursday. "But you know what, Mr. President? I kind of think that that is not what he will be saying. I kind of think that in the midst of this discussion in which millions of Americans are wondering whether or not they are going to continue to have health care, what's going to happen to their kids, what's going to happen, I suspect that what Senator Daines is doing is nothing more than an old political trick, trying to embarrass Democrats."

The trick didn't work very well, because not a single senator voted in favor of Daines' amendment, according to The Hill. Forty-three Democrats just voted "present," and Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) voted against it.

Benjamin Day, executive director of the pro-single-payer organization Healthcare-NOW!, told ATTN: Daines was "clearly just trying to troll Democrats." He said his organization is not engaging with this amendment, and they intend to rally behind Sanders' forthcoming single-payer plan.

healthcare protest

How single-payer works

Single-payer health care doesn't mean the government takes over all the hospitals and employs all of our doctors. It simply means that the government is in charge of paying for everyone's health care costs. Both Canada and Taiwan have single-payer health care programs, and most European countries have similar programs that make sure everyone has health care coverage.

Medicaid and Medicare are versions of single-payer we already have, but they only cover part of the population. That's why Sanders and others say they want to offer the American people "Medicare for all."

"Medicare for All is a concept rather than a specific plan," Gerald Kominski, director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Health Policy Research, told ATTN: "The idea is that everyone would be covered by a government plan, but there are an infinite number of possibilities. But the core feature is everyone would be covered, or at a minimum, all legal residents would be covered."

"Every other country in the developed world guarantees health care as a right," Day said. "It actually costs less to do it that way, so there's no moral excuse anymore for us to not follow the path of the rest of the world."

Who supports it

Overall, about a third of Americans support single-payer health care, according to the Pew Research Center, and around 60 percent believe it's the government's responsibility to ensure all Americans have some form of health care. 

single payer

Both New York and California are considering switching to single-payer health care.

More and more Democrats are starting to support it in Congress, as evidenced by Michigan Congressman John Conyer's Medicare for all bill collecting 115 co-sponsors after being largely overlooked since it was first introduced in 2003. Sanders has been one of the most vocal supporters of single-player, and put the issue in the national spotlight during his 2016 presidential campaign.

"Democrats need to defend the principle that health care should be a basic right, and providing coverage for all Americans is a worthy goal of a great nation," Kominski said.

While Sen. Daines may have just been trolling the Democrats with his amendment, it does look like single-payer is going to be on the table in the near future.

"The American health care system continues to fail millions of Americans," Adam Gaffney, a physician who instructs at Harvard Medical School and a board member at Physicians for a National Health Program, told ATTN:. "Trumpcare has activated citizens and activists across the country to stand up for health care rights. All of that energy and all of that drive toward a better health care system is not going to suddenly evaporate."