Throughout the 2016 election cycle, progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) repeatedly made the case that health care was not a privilege but a “right” that should be guaranteed for all Americans.
Meanwhile, most Republicans argued for a free market health care system in which the federal government stays out of the health insurance market completely and instead creates an economic environment where as many citizens as possible can afford to purchase their own coverage — free of any mandates or requirements.
But one Republican senator now appears to be siding more closely with Democrats when it comes to whether health care is a “right” or “privilege.”
“There’s a widespread recognition that the federal government, Congress, has created the right for every American to have health care,” Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said, the New York Times reported. “If you want to be fiscally responsible, then coverage is better than no coverage.”
Cassidy reportedly warned of the effects of Republicans passing a bill to replace Obamacare that would result in some Americans losing coverage.
According to a report last week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, an estimated 24 million fewer Americans would have health insurance by 2026 if Obamacare is repealed and the House Republicans’ bill — the American Health Care Act — becomes law. The report noted that 14 million fewer Americans would be insured after the first year.
Such a bill, Cassidy argued, would cause undue burdens for taxpayers by potentially jamming up emergency rooms.
Cassidy’s comments come as Republicans grapple with how to maintain support from blue-collar, white working class voters in the Rust Belt — the segment of voters who propelled Donald Trump to the presidency — while trying to uphold the GOP’s traditional support for a free market system.
“The folks who Hillary Clinton called the ‘deplorables’ are actually those who want better coverage,” Cassidy said, according to the Times, “who we’d be hurting if we don’t change this bill [the AHCA]. Cassidy noted that on the campaign trail Trump promised to “take care of everybody” as president.
According to a recent Pew Research study, the majority of Republicans earning $30,000 per year or less — 52 percent — believe it is the government’s responsibility to provide health care for all citizens. The number is up from just 31 percent a year ago. The same study found that 34 percent of Republicans making between $30,000 and $75,000 per year believe it is the government’s responsibility to provide health care for all, while just 14 percent of the same subgroup said the same last year.
In a September interview on “60 Minutes,” CBS’ Scott Pelley asked Trump about his plan to repeal Obamacare. Trump said he would repeal and replace the 2010 law but noted that “everybody’s got to be covered.”
“This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, no the lower 25 percent, they can’t afford private [insurance],” Trump said.
“Universal health care?” Pelley asked the then-Republican nominee.
“I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of, much better than they’re taken of now,” Trump said, adding that he would “make a deal” with hospitals to provide care for those who can’t afford it.
“Make a deal?” Pelley pressed. “Who pays for it?”
“The government’s going to pay for it,” Trump said, “but we’re going to save so much money on the other side.”