As the 116th Congress prepares to be sworn in on January 3, lobbyists and centrist Democrats are joining forces to derail one of the new Democratic majority’s biggest priorities.
On November 6, Democrats won back control of the House of Representatives with healthcare as the top issue for voters across America. One proposal likely to get a lot of attention in the new Congress is expanding Medicare to be available for all Americans, as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has already proposed in his chamber. Under Sanders’ plan, Americans would have comprehensive healthcare coverage funded by a slight tax increase.
The proposal itself is popular with a wide majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans. A Reuters survey from August found that there was 70 percent overall approval for Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, with 84 percent of self-identified Democrats supporting it and 52 percent of Republicans. And even a conservative think tank found that it would cost $2 trillion less than America’s current healthcare system in terms of overall healthcare expenditures.
However, as Politico Magazine reported Monday, the idea has many health insurance lobbyists spooked, as the number of Americans purchasing private health plans would likely decrease if Medicare for All became a reality. Lobbyists are now forging a coalition with centrist Democrats — many of whom have received generous campaign contributions from the health insurance industry — in order to defeat Medicare for All.
The coalition has been dubbed The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which is made up of lobbyists for groups like America’s Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross and BlueShield Association, as well as PhRMA — the chief lobbyist for pharmaceutical manufacturers — the Federation of American Hospitals, and the American Medical Association.
And according to Politico, they’ve enlisted the help of senior-level aides for former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as at least one veteran of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
[Democratic consulting group] Avalere founder Dan Mendelson — a former Clinton White House official — declined to comment on the firm’s work, citing a policy of not talking about its clients.
The Partnership has also received support from Lauren Crawford Shaver, a veteran of the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, who is running its operations out of the lobbying shop Forbes Tate Partners.
This isn’t the first time centrist Democrats have made an alliance with healthcare lobbyists to defeat measures making healthcare more affordable for the general public. As The Intercept’s Lee Fang reported in 2016, health insurance lobbyists worked together with Democratic-aligned consultants who came off of pro-Hillary Clinton Super PACs to defeat Amendment 69 — a ballot initiative in Colorado that would have created a single-payer healthcare system within the state. Their effort was successful.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.