In Announcing His Campaign, Bernie Sanders Gave Opponents a Soundbite on Healthcare That He May Regret

The echoes of Obama in 2009 on keeping your doctor are not helpful.

Buried deep in Bernie Sanders’s campaign announcement interview with CBS News Tuesday morning is a line he may come to regret.

Asked by John Dickerson to defend the disruption that his “Medicare For All” plan would cause for patients, Sanders replied, “You’re gonna have the same doctor.”

Hoo boy. Anyone remember “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?” Barack Obama said that in June of 2009, just as his own administration was working with Congress to write the massive healthcare reform bill that became Obamacare. It didn’t work out that way, and Republicans spent the rest of his two terms using that line as a stand-in to bash Obama for all the disruption his plan caused for Americans.

Backers of Medicare For All might intend for the plan to not cause such significant disruptions for people. Obama didn’t intend the Affordable Care Act to cause people to lose access to their then-doctors. But a massive reform along the lines of what Sanders proposes will result in enormous upheavals, just as the ACA did. It is inevitable with a system as complex as the web of private insurance and public programs that make up the Kafka-esque nightmare of healthcare coverage in America.

That is not to say it is not worth trying. But having been burned so badly before, the American people are understandably edgy about reforms, even when they sound good. (As Dickerson points out to Sanders, support for his plan in polls drops precipitously when respondents think they might lose their current insurance coverage.) Any candidate pushing further reforms is likely going to need to be honest in his or her rhetoric as the campaign moves forward. The public will be a lot more open to taking the leap if it understands the potential trade-offs.

Watch the entire extended interview in the video at the top of the post.

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