GOP Senator Wants To Block States From Setting Up Single-Payer Systems

So much for states' rights!
Sen. John Kennedy said states shouldn't be able to set up single-payer health care systems because he doesn't think people will like them.
Sen. John Kennedy said states shouldn't be able to set up single-payer health care systems because he doesn't think people will like them.
Jonathan Bachman via Getty Images

WASHINGTON ― Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Tuesday that he’s so opposed to the idea of a single-payer health care system that he’s trying to block California or any other Democratic state from setting up such a system.

“I think single payer is a mistake and I think it would be bad for a blue state,” Kennedy told reporters on Capitol Hill. “That’s part of my job in the United States Senate, to make value judgments like that.”

Kennedy is attempting to insert the issue into Republicans’ latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Under the so-called Cassidy-Graham legislation, states would be given block grants to set up their own health care systems. While the fate of the bill is unclear, the Louisiana senator seeks to add an amendment that would prevent states from using federal money for a single-payer system.

He said he sees no contradiction between his party’s strong advocacy of states’ rights, and his effort to strip states of the ability to set up the types of programs they want.

“I love, I believe in states’ rights,” Kennedy told HuffPost. “But I also believe in the supremacy clause, and I believe the United States Congress has a legal and a moral obligation to, on occasion, set down national rules.”

But isn’t this just a case of his not liking a certain policy that millions of others in, say, California might want for themselves?

“Well, if ― yes,” he conceded. “I feel strongly about it. And I’m in the United States Senate and I’m supposed to do what I think is right. And that’s what I think is right.”

A single-payer system, also known as “Medicare for all,” is one in which a public agency organizes health care financing but leaves delivery of services to the private sector. Public support for the concept has grown in recent years, although it’s nowhere near becoming a reality at the national level.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently introduced single-payer legislation that would give government-run health insurance to everybody in the country. The bill picked up a number of Democratic cosponsors in the Senate and it has excited the progressive base, but it isn’t going anywhere.

Kennedy said he doesn’t think Americans would be happy with a single-payer system if they actually had it.

“A single-payer system won’t work and it will break us, OK? We won’t be able to afford it,” he said. “That’s how I vote. It doesn’t mean if you disagree, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means you’re wrong.”

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