Single Payer Necessary for National Defense

Despite Hillary Clinton’s claim that single-payer medical insurance is politically impossible, it might get enacted if shown to be necessary for our national defense.

That’s the take of Paul deLespinasse, professor emeritus at Adrian College in Michigan.

“Before the Eisenhower administration, highways were mostly state responsibilities,” deLespinasse said. “But Eisenhower admired the German autobahns he saw after World War II and knew good highways could be invaluable during a military emergency. His 1919 military convoy across the U.S. had convinced him that bad roads impede military movements.”

“Eisenhower’s National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 led to freeways now connecting the entire country. Conservative enthusiasm for this huge expansion of federal activity was surely enhanced by the fact that it was considered a defense measure.”

Before 1958 most education had been considered a state or private responsibility, and again a major federal program was motivated by the need to strengthen national defense.

deLespinasse says that Hillary Clinton’s belief that single-payer is politically impossible seems reasonable, given Republican hostility to Obamacare, since without some Republican support no such legislation can be enacted.

“But Clinton neglects the historical fact that ‘packaging’ can have a major influence on getting legislation passed,” he says.

“The only program current Republican leaders do not want to cut is national defense. Indeed, they want to increase defense spending while whacking everything else,” he says. “Clearly, the best way to encourage Republican support for single-payer will be to bill it as a national defense measure. But this would not merely be packaging. It happens to be true.”

“The National Defense Medical Insurance Reform Act of 2017 would gradually reduce the percentage of GDP devoted to medical care, thus avoiding the danger that medical costs will gobble up resources otherwise available for the military forces, research, and education. It would improve our ability to fight viruses like Zika or attacks by contagious biological weapons, since protecting anyone requires protecting everyone. And a healthier population would include more young people physically capable of military service, which could be especially important as young people become a smaller part of our population.”

“Expansion of federal involvement in highways and education as defense measures took place under President Eisenhower, a Republican. A Republican president might be the ideal person to propose Medicare For All legislation. Perhaps Ted Cruz would be unlikely to propose any such thing, but Donald Trump or John Kasich might find it an interesting way to replace deeply flawed Obamacare with broad bipartisan support.”

“True leaders of either party can sometimes turn political impossibility into political reality.”