“You have better health care than we do”
“You have better health care than we do.”
When President Trump said those words to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, most in the media interpreted it as another unintentional verbal slip from the president, hilariously coming just hours after House Republicans barely managed to pass a bill that nearly everyone thinks is terrible.
But Trump’s admission is one that is increasingly shared by Americans and even many of the most conservative Republicans out there. Because even as they label the Affordable Care Act a “failure,” there’s a growing sense that we’re rapidly heading toward a form of universal health care that is far more progressive than President Obama dared to pursue when he was president.
First, consider the numbers. A recent poll found that 40 percent of Trump supporters favor expanding Medicare to all Americans. Who knows if they understand the semantics? But the sentiment is clear: providing universal health care is quite popular with the voters who put Trump in the White House, and it’s even more popular with those who voted for Hillary Clinton.
“I would predict that in less than seven years, we'll be in a single-payer system,” acclaimed conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer told Tucker Carlson during an appearance on his show last week. “The terms of debate are entirely on the grounds of the liberal argument that everybody ought to have it. Once that happens, you're going to end up with a single-payer system.”
Krauthammer’s thesis, which Carlson did not dispute, is that for all of its shortcomings, Obamacare has become the new normal in the American psyche. And if history if any indicator, it’s just about impossible to give Americans a new social welfare entitlement program and then take it away.
In that sense, Republicans and Democrats have something in common.
Back in 2013, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was asked if Obamacare was part of a gradual move toward universal, single-payer coverage: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes,” he said. “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.”
This doesn’t mean that President Trump will be signing a breakthrough piece of health care legislation anytime soon. But as Senate Republicans have already thrown out the House Republican bill, it’s clear the odds of heading back into the darkness on health care are fading quickly into the rearview mirror. And that’s not because our lawmakers have suddenly developed a conscience on the issue. It’s because the American public is quickly deciding they won’t have it any other way.
As the libertarian Reason explained:
“Rank-and-file Republicans may love to grumble about big government, but most of them made their peace with entitlements long ago; if they can handle that tension, they can probably handle another one. And if enough Republican voters decide that this is what they want, there will be Republican politicians who are willing to oblige them.”