Chelsea Clinton: "Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle CHIP, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance"
Chelsea Clinton, left, and her mother, Hillary Clinton. Photograph: Jason Decrow/AP (source)
by Gaius Publius
Someone seems to be pulling out all the stops:
Stumping for her mother for the first time in 2016 on Tuesday, Chelsea Clinton directly criticized Bernie Sanders on health care policy, echoing Hillary Clinton’s recent attacks on the Vermont senator.The authors note: "The attacks are similar to charges made by Hillary Clinton herself in recent days." Indeed they are, and highly inaccurate claims at that. Also easily disproved. Does Sanders want to "dismantle Obamacare" and leave you without insurance — or give you a form of Medicare in its place?
Asked about mounting enthusiasm for Sanders among young people, the daughter of the Democratic presidential frontrunner urged younger voters to focus on the “specifics” of Sanders’ policy proposals.
“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era – before we had the Affordable Care Act – that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”
One could call these claims "absolutely false," as they were called when candidate Clinton herself first made them — though "dismantling private insurance," if that's indeed what he wants to do, wouldn't be unwelcome in most quarters.
The Inaccuracy of Chelsea Clinton's Claims
The media response to this renewed anti-Sanders attack has been swift. Like her mother's claims when she made them during the debate, Chelsea Clinton's claims — which seem to go a bit further — are just false, plain-speak for media language like "wildly misleading" (Huffington Post), "wasn't an honest attack" (David Axelrod), and "a crude, inflammatory distortion" (National Nurses United).
For detail, first ABC News and David Axelrod: "The Sanders campaign quickly responded by saying that Chelsea Clinton was 'wrong. ... A Medicare-for-all plan will save the average middle class family $5,000 a year,' a spokesman for Sanders’ campaign said. 'The Clinton campaign is wrong.' ... Later in the day, Democratic strategist David Axelrod criticized the Clinton campaign for having Chelsea Clinton take a shot at Sanders. 'It wasn’t an honest attack,' he said during an interview on CNN."
Now Common Dreams quoting the nurses' union NNU: "National Nurses United added its voice to those defending Sanders' proposal, accusing Clinton of deliberately distorting the facts. ... 'Surely Hillary Clinton knows that Medicare and Medicaid are national programs, and that they would be funded as national programs,' said NNU co-president Jean Ross. 'To claim that expanding Medicare to all would hand it over to state governors is a crude, inflammatory distortion, and shows an indifference to all those people who continue to be harmed by a broken system.'"
Finally, Jonathan Cohn and Amanda Terkel in the Huffington Post with a longer analysis of Clinton's statements:
Like so many statements the Clinton campaign has made about Sanders position on health care, Chelsea’s contained some true statements -- and some wildly misleading implications. ...And:
[Sanders' support for single-payer health insurance] has made him a hero to many liberal voters. It has also drawn the wrath of the Clinton campaign, which has attacked the scheme in two separate ways -- each making a factual claims and then leaving out critical context.
Because a single-payer plan would require the government to raise literally trillions of dollars in revenue, Clinton has assailed Sanders for calling for a massive tax hike. That's true. What Clinton never mentions is that those taxes would displace existing private insurance premiums.
And because Sanders' version of single-payer envisions separate state programs, Clinton and her allies have suggested that hostile state officials could thwart his plan. That's also true. But what Clinton never adds is that Sanders' scheme would also impose regulations, limiting state leeway over who to insure and what kind of coverage to supply.
During a campaign appearance in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Chelsea offered a version of these arguments -- but went a little further.
"Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the [Children's Health Insurance Program], dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance," she said, according to an account from NBC News. "I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we'll go back to an era -- before we had the Affordable Care Act -- that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance."
It's true that, under a scheme like the one Sanders envisions, most people would lose the insurance they have today. But that's because everybody would have the new government-provided insurance instead. And while the transition from the old system to a new one would be far more complicated than single-payer advocates like to acknowledge, the whole point of a single-payer plan is to make sure that coverage is simpler, more comprehensive and more reliable than it is today.
If anything, a single-payer plan like the one Sanders envisions would result in more coverage than current arrangements would allow.
Characteristically missing from Chelsea's comments was any recognition of these facts -- or acknowledgment that Sanders has a long record of arguing that people need more protection from medical bills, not less."Characteristically missing" is quite a charge in itself. I've rarely seen an adverb do this much damage in a political comment.
While Sanders hasn't rolled out his 2016 plan, the bills he has sponsored, like the 2013 American Health Security Act, are nationally controlled single-payer plans that would cover far more people than even the ACA and provide huge net savings for most Americans by freeing them from the vicissitudes and profit-seeking whims of American health insurance companies.
"To Bernie Sanders with thanks for your commitment to real health care access for all Americans and best wishes" –Hillary Rodham Clinton 1993 (source)
Is falsely asserting otherwise a sign of something, for example a tightening race? If so, I'd be careful if I were the offending campaign. The eventual winner is going to need the other side's voters if the surviving Democrat expects to defeat what the the Republicans spit out in the fall — and at this point, the bulk of voter enthusiasm seems to favor Sanders. Burning bridges to that part of the electorate with obvious ... distortions? lies? ... may be the Democrats most direct path to defeat in the general election, something the Party claims to abhor like the plague. Just a thought.
(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you'd like to help out, go here; you can adjust the split any way you like at the link. If you'd like to "phone-bank for Bernie," go here. You can volunteer in other ways by going here. And thanks!)
UPDATE: And then there's this response: "Clinton’s attacks produce windfall of campaign cash for Sanders". I'll repeat what I said above, since this underscores it. Burning bridges to the Sanders-supporting part of the electorate may be the Democrats most direct path to defeat in the general election.