McDermott’s reminder: Long term, many Democrats want Obamacare to fail

It was once conventional wisdom in Congress that bills of great importance – those covering topics such as war, massive programs, and great social upheaval – needed to pass with bipartisan majorities. Obamacare, in contrast, was unable to attract any Republican support. It was passed in a late night, straight party line vote.

Since then, it has survived court challenges, votes to defund and repeal it, and other obstacles. Among its supporters, the Obama Administration’s incompetent rollout of the federal exchange website, as well as the numerous delays to key provisions of the law, have been seen as unforced errors.

Those problems have Democrats, especially Congressional Democrats up for re-election next year, scrambling to fix the bureaucratic problems and reduce the number of negative headlines – and voters’ anger.

As they do that, it’s important to remember that a sizable portion of Congressional Democrats and the party’s base want Obamacare to fail in the long term. Sure, right now their priority is to right the ship. But what they really want is for people to conclude that Obamacare is well-intentioned but too complicated, and the real answer to health care reform is a single payer system.

Seattle own Cong. Jim McDermott reminded us of that fact recently. Here’s what he told a reporter from The Nation:

“In the long arc of healthcare reform, I think [the ACA] will ultimately fail, because we are trying to put business-model methods into the healthcare system.”

And here is his solution:

McDermott is actually optimistic. He expects stronger healthcare systems roughly resembling single-payer “to spring up like dandelions” around the country—led by progressive states that really want to make it work. “That’s probably going to happen in Vermont, Washington and Oregon,” he said. “California has tried twice to have a single-payer system and was defeated by the forces of money. Jerry Brown in California, maybe Cuomo in New York, maybe Kentucky. The governor in Oregon, John Kitzhaber, and our governor in Washington, Jay Inslee, all want it to happen.”

I try not to use the term “single payer” because it doesn’t clearly convey the idea behind it. Simply put, McDermott is talking about a government-run, cradle-to-grave health care system, like the National Health Service in the U.K., that will require massive tax increases to fund.

That’s not a notion most Americans are comfortable with, and even with a big majority in 2010, House Democrats didn’t have the votes to include a public option in Obamacare, let alone a national single payer system.

Next time you hear a Democratic politician say that the only problem is that Obamacare doesn’t go far enough, remember that their eventual goal is government-run health care.

— Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.