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Giancarlo Sopo: Democrats put 2020 chances at risk with government health insurance proposals

Democrats can deliver, but not by pushing a costly, unpopular one-size-fits-all government insurance system.

As the son of Cuban exiles who, like so many others, came to America to escape oppression and seek a better life, I have always felt tremendously grateful to live in a nation where freedom and opportunity are abundant.

This has led me to believe that each American has an affirmative responsibility to ensure this remains the case, especially our political leaders, regardless of party affiliation.

Since I was old enough to vote, I have been drawn to the Democratic Party and have supported each of its candidates — including John Kerry, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — in every presidential election.

While I recently became an Independent, I believed then that these leaders represented the best choice for our country. And, as the 2020 presidential race begins to take shape, I am eager for a Democratic nominee who has the strength, tenacity and vision to provide an alternative to the extremism on both sides of the aisle and chart a better pathway forward for our country.

But, as I watched the first round of Democratic presidential debates unfold in my hometown of Miami, I grew increasingly concerned by the candidates’ embrace of policies that endanger this possibility.

This is particularly true of their calls for new government-run health insurance systems, which may be popular with far-Left Democratic primary voters but are not supported by the majority of Americans whose votes Democrats will need next November.

Extending access to quality, affordable health care has been a staple of the Democratic Party for generations. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was initially controversial, its patient protections — such as those for individuals with preexisting conditions — are now very popular, and there is no doubt that it helped millions of Americans access the coverage and care they need.

The ACA does all of this while preserving choices for consumers — including the more than 180 million Americans who are covered through their employers, like union workers who have fought hard for excellent benefits.

Today, those private plans and public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) work together to cover about 90 percent of Americans, a vast majority of whom are widely satisfied with both their coverage and the health care they receive.

This is a tremendous accomplishment, and we ought to be building upon that progress – not casting it aside and starting over from scratch as many Democratic presidential hopefuls would propose.

The Medicare-For-All legislation favored by Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and other top contenders would do away with all of this, including the ACA. It would take away every American’s current coverage and force them into a single, government-controlled system — something we know is both bad public policy and politics for Democrats, given the plethora of polling that shows voters reject this policy

Moreover, a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the official non-partisan scorekeeper for Congress, finds that “patients might face increased wait times and reduced access to care” under the new Medicare-For-All system. This would be a big step backward.

Implementing such a system would also be unaffordable for taxpayers, with both conservative and liberal think tanks estimating that it would cost over $32 trillion in its first decade.

While Sen. Sanders claimed on the debate stage that Americans would wind up saving money under his system, the reality is that experts say it would require more than doubling taxes, and not just for the so-called rich. Indeed, for many middle-class families, these new higher taxes would far outpace any savings.

A growing body of evidence is also shedding light on the huge pitfalls of proposals being branded as “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for all — namely the “public option” and “buy-in” systems. For starters, the candidates themselves confirmed on the debate stage that these proposals, would, by design, lead to the same result: a one-size-fits-all health care system run by Washington bureaucrats.

It would be foolish for Democrats to believe that a slightly slower path to the same bad outcome is truly more “moderate,” or would be any more popular once Americans learn the truth.

Studies find that “public option” and “buy-in” systems could also threaten patients’ access to quality care, as hospitals would be forced to accept payment rates that are insufficient to cover their costs, leading to significant layoffs of health care professionals and even “the closure of essential hospitals.”

In Florida alone, hospitals would face over $6 billion in cuts – a serious blow to patients and communities throughout our state.

Not only would these proposals force Floridians to pay more to wait in line for lower-quality care, the political consequences could be devastating for those who believe we need a change of leadership in the White House.

Polling has shown that majorities of Americans oppose government-run health care once they are aware of its consequences, and most Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents would prefer elected leaders focus on protecting the ACA.

To be clear, health care in America is not perfect, but we have made a lot of progress. Today more than 300 million people have coverage, young adults have greater access to health care, and preexisting conditions are covered. We should focus on building upon these successes, expanding coverage and lowering costs, rather than pursuing ill-conceived concoctions like Medicare-For-All.

Americans have seen their health care treated as a political football for far too long. They want – and deserve – reasonable, concrete solutions that help them get the health care they and their families need at an affordable price.

Democrats can deliver on this promise, but not by pushing a costly, unpopular one-size-fits-all government insurance system.

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Giancarlo Sopo is a Miami-based public affairs consultant and writer. His commentary has been featured in The New York Times, Univision, Fox News, CNN, Politico and The Miami Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @giancarlosopo.

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