Not all establishment democrats are resisting Bernie’s rise to prominence. Texas politician Beto O’Rourke has his eye on Ted Cruz’s senate seat, and he has adopted Bernie’s model for running a political campaign: he doesn’t take any PAC money. This lends Beto a large amount of credibility and trustworthiness amongst Texas progressives. However, we need to ask ourselves: are Beto’s positions influenced by the will of the voters as opposed to money in politics? You decide for yourself.
When asked, Beto stated he would in fact cosponsor Bernie’s Medicare for All bill if he was in the senate:
“I like the model that Sanders proposed because it takes the Medicare model that works so well today and extends it across everyone in this country, not just those 65 and over. The one flaw I see in the Conyers bill that makes the Sanders bill just a little more superior is that it changes the basic premise of Medicare. Which is right now that it reimburses for care and services provided regardless of whether the provider is a private for-profit practice, a public hospital, a private hospital, or a clinic that is organized some other way. And so that everyone is able to meet a certain level of care to be reimbursed through that single payer model. That’s what Sanders does in his bill and that’s why I like that and certainly I would be a cosponsor if I was in the senate.”
Breaking down Beto’s statement
On the surface, this seems to make sense. However, Beto conveniently fails to explain Conyers’ version of Medicare for all, H.R. 676, provides a framework to convert for-profit hospitals into nonprofits so they can be reimbursed by Medicare.
“The payments to owners of converting for-profit providers shall occur during a 15-year period, through the sale of U.S. Treasury Bonds. Payment for conversions under paragraph (3) shall not be made for loss of business profits.” – H.R. 676, section 103 provision a part 6
So, Beto publicly supports Medicare for all. However, he has yet to put his money where his mouth is and cosponsor H.R. 676. Why? His stated reason is that for-profit healthcare providers will no longer be able to be reimbursed by Medicare. However, this simply isn’t true. What H.R. 676 does is not only expand access to Medicare to everybody, it encourages the elimination of for profit healthcare in its entirety. To say the very least, not mentioning this detail is very misleading.
The problem with for-profit healthcare arises when the inelastic demand for health care is taken into account. The demand for healthcare is not going to decrease no matter what the cost for healthcare is because healthcare is a must have: you need it to survive and be healthy. This means that healthcare providers can essentially charge whatever they want and get away with it. Conyers’ version of Medicare for All addresses this problem by eliminating for-profit healthcare from the Medicare program. Because of this, I would argue that Conyers’ version of Medicare for all is actually superior to Sanders version of Medicare for all.
Having gone through all of that, it seems rather strange that Beto still refuses to cosponsor H.R. 676. There is no rational reason for him to oppose Conyers’ version of Medicare For All if he is actually a proponent of single payer healthcare. So what is the real reason that Beto refuses to cosponsor H.R. 676 if it’s not because of a philosophical objection? Follow the money.
What “big money” does Beto take?
While Beto no longer accepts PAC money, he still accepts money from corporations. So far in the 2017-2018 election cycle, Beto has accepted $47,433 from health professionals. Two out of three of his biggest political donors are for-profit healthcare providers: Tenet healthcare and Emerus; which have each respectively donated $11,250 and $10,800 to his campaign.
If Beto cosponsors H.R. 676, he will be throwing the existence of some of his biggest donors into an existential crisis. It’s easy for Beto to say he would cosponsor Sanders’ bill when he’s not in the senate. Is it easy for him to cosponsor H.R. 676 while he’s in the house? Not so much.
Beto is problematic because his refusal to cosponsor H.R. 676 demonstrates that he’s not truly on board for Medicare for All, he’s beholden to the interests of big money donors, and his integrity is questionable at best. It’s a classic neoliberal trick. Talk like a progressive and give lip service to progressive ideas. But when a neoliberal actually gets the chance to do something progressive, they don’t do it. That is exactly what Beto is doing with respect to money in politics and fighting for a Medicare for All.
Watch Colin County Young Democrats, Kristi Lara, director of Our Revolution North Texas, confront Beto about this issue, here.
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