Healthcare corporations are spending millions of dollars on astroturfed attack ads against Medicare for All. The Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future, for example, a coalition of hospitals and insurance companies, has spent $1 million on a television campaign against changes to the current healthcare system they profit from.
The commercial presents the Partnership as a grassroots organization of concerned citizens, rather than that corporate front group exposed by The Intercept that it is. It features a range of actors of different races, ages and occupations expressing their concern over Medicare for All. “We come from different walks of life but we agree on one important thing: we don’t want to be forced into a one size fits all government insurance system” the commercial states, without telling the viewer that “we” does not refer to human beings, but an amalgamation of corporations. It warns that any changes to the system would result in “higher taxes or higher premiums” and “lower quality care” and features one actor scoffing over the idea of “politicians and bureaucrats in charge of our healthcare.”
40 percent of the money spent on the campaign has been injected into Iowa, a key state in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Another group, led by Republican strategist Steven Law, has spent almost $6 million, including around $650,000 in Iowa, on television ads opposing a nationalized healthcare plan and warning viewers that any changes would mean waiting times for doctors would increase.
Healthcare is a top issue in American politics. The public consistently cites medical concerns as among the most important problems facing the country. According to the government’s own records, more than 40 million adults have no coverage whatsoever, an extraordinary figure considering all those over 65 are granted full coverage under Medicare. Millions of Americans have resorted to selling their own blood to pay for medical expenses, a phenomenon MintPress News has covered in detail. Medicare for All is a very popular policy; a 2018 poll from Reuters found that nearly 80 percent of respondents supported it, including a sizeable majority of Republicans. However, after coordinated opposition to the plan from both the business sector and the press, those approval ratings have declined to just 51percent.
California Senator Kamala Harris, who co-sponsored the Medicare for All bill, started to distance herself from her own proposal. Harris, once a “top tier candidate” in her own words, consequently saw her public support dwindle to the point where her own staff began to jump ship and accept jobs on Michael Bloomberg’s presidential team. Harris announced that she was dropping out of the race to become the next Democratic presidential candidate on December 3. Massachusetts’s Senator Elizabeth Warren is another candidate that has shifted to the right on healthcare. She quietly removed all mention of Medicare for All from her website and last month unveiled a complicated half measure of a health plan that begins merely by expanding Obamacare. Stocks of private health insurance companies shot up after she launched her new plan.
In contrast to healthcare stocks, Warren’s approval ratings have collapsed in recent weeks, dropping from a high of over 26 percent in early October, when she briefly became the frontrunner for the nomination, to just 14 percent by December 3, according to Real Clear Politics’ aggregated polls.
Political commentators warned her that she might suffer the same fate as Harris if she jettisoned Medicare for All. “As Medicare for All got more attention more and more people began to say, ‘Yeah, that’s a mistake [that] she showed flexibility,” said Barney Frank, a former senator in Warren’s home state of Massachusetts.
One candidate that has stood resolutely in favor of Medicare for All is Bernie Sanders, who promises to create a national medical network to stop corporations from “ripping off the American people.” “We say to the private health insurance companies: whether you like it or not, the United States will join every other major country on earth and guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” says the Vermont senator on his campaign website.
The privatized, for-profit healthcare industry is close to panicking over the prospect of a nationalized system along the lines of other advanced countries. Market Watch noted that Sanders’ plan “looms large” over the industry, with Forbes describing it as “unnerving investors.” Bloomberg noted that “snowballing” “fears” over Medicare for All could lead to “crumbling” health stocks. It warns that “there may be more pain to come” for the “vulnerable.” Vulnerable, in this case, it does not mean the tens of millions of uninsured Americans, it means investors who are knee-deep in those stocks. The United States is an outlier in not guaranteeing healthcare as a human right, and Americans spend around twice as much as comparable nations on healthcare, with some of the worst outcomes.
Sanders’ plan is also under constant attack from the business world, although a report from the libertarian think tank the Mercatus Center that was meant to cast doubt on the viability of the concept, accidentally proved that Medicare for All would save the country trillions, with private savings outweighing public costs. Nevertheless, this latest round of commercials is unlikely to be the last private insurance or big pharmaceutical companies have to say on the matter. As Sanders continues to gain momentum nationally, we can expect increased resistance from those who make money off the suffering of the sick.
Alan MacLeod is a MintPress Staff Writer as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.