Let's not force people to change healthcare plans they like

They say we become more conservative as we age. (Sorry to sound like the harebrained president with that ambiguous “they.”) I don’t know whether I’ve moved right or others have moved left, but I’ve been finding myself not always agreeing with the most liberal positions anymore. I’m aligning more with the moderates than with the more extreme wing of the Democratic Party.

Among the candidates for president, Elizabeth Warren impressed me for a while. She has substance. As the joke goes, she has a plan for everything. Now I’m feeling bothered by her stubbornness about Medicare for All. It’s more than disliking her refusal to admit that taxes on the middle class would increase to pay for it. It’s that I can’t imagine how she could sell the plan to the 156 million Americans who would lose their employer-sponsored health insurance.

As I watched a couple of Democratic debates, I liked the candidates with ideas about Medicare for All who want it, or whatever they call it, while keeping private insurance for a while at least. That’s basically Pete Buttigieg’s and Beto O’Rourke’s position. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar would allow 50-to-64-year-olds to buy into Medicare. Andrew Yang supports a public option that he expects would outcompete the private options, so the latter would disappear over time.

Optional sounds sensible to me. Although I would like to see a single-payer healthcare system eventually, I’m afraid that forcing it on people is a recipe for defeat in the 2020 election. The 2018 congressional elections saw enough well-educated suburbanites voting for Democrats to give us the House. Most of those suburbanites, whom the Democrats need on our side in 2020, have good health care plans already. Warren says people don’t care who provides their insurance, they care about the coverage. She also wonders why a person would bother running for president unless she has bold ideas. But maybe people aren’t ready for the bold idea; people are nervous about change until they are convinced it’s good.

Warren is trending into the favorite position. The people who support an optional Medicare for All aren’t looking like they have much of a chance. The latest Real Clear Politics poll has Buttigieg at 5.8 percent, O’Rourke at 2.6 percent, and Yang, Klobuchar, and Booker around 2 percent.

Joe Biden, who supports expanding Obamacare, is still the frontrunner, but he’s been slipping while Warren is rising. Thinking about Biden as the nominee is depressing — same old, same old — but if it’s a Biden vs. Warren contest for the nomination, right now I’d favor electability with Republicans and Independents (i.e., Biden).

Then there’s the Chicago teachers strike. I’m having trouble sympathizing with strikers who were offered a 16 percent pay raise over five years. I get that teachers want smaller classes and more in-school nurses, librarians, and social workers — every school should have such support personnel. But Chicago is broke, so perhaps the teachers should be willing to take smaller paychecks to pay for better conditions.

I hope I can say these things without surrendering my liberal calling card.



A photo on page 7 of today’s Chicago Tribune shows tobacco industry executives testifying before Congress in 1994. Until I read the caption, I thought the photo was taken recently, not 25 years ago. There was nothing in the men’s appearance to date the photo — they all wore suits and ties and the well-groomed haircuts of business executives.

Someone else might have immediately noted the absence of women and people of color. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t jump out at me as unlikely in the business world.

If there had been women in the photo, their hair and clothing would have offered clues about the photo’s age.

Men get to wear uniforms that change little over time. Some people think that’s boring, women can have more fun with clothing, hairstyles, and makeup. But having more fun requires women to spend more time on their appearance.

It’s an interesting topic that I expect I’ll want to revisit.



“The president is an arsonist who later pretends to be a fireman.”
— Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, on Trump’s actions in Syria


Leave a comment