While the White House and House Republicans were toasting the passage of the American Health Care Act in the House Thursday as the “death of Obamacare,” a veteran conservative political commentator insisted it was President Obama who had reason to celebrate.
The bill, which likely will undergo considerable change in the Senate, may dismantle certain measures in Obama’s signature legislation, but it accepts the fundamental premise of government-controlled health care, argued Charles Krauthammer Thursday evening on the Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
For that reason, he concluded, the United States is on its way to single-payer health-care system completely funded by the government.
“I think historically speaking we are at the midpoint. We had seven years of Obamacare, a change in expectations, and I would predict that in less than seven years, we will be in a single-payer system,” Krauthammer told guest host Chris Wallace.
President Obama and other Democratic leaders have not campaigned for a single-payer system because it has been political poison, but he and others are on the record stating it’s their ultimate objective. And President Trump turned heads Thursday night when he appeared to endorse Australia’s socialist health-care system as superior to the U.S. system.
Krauthammer noted the irony that Obamacare has failed both functionally, with insurers fleeing a “death spiral,” and politically, with Republicans scoring record gains at the ballot box in four elections.
“But the irony is in the end, I think Obamacare wins the day because it changed expectations,” he said.
“Look at the terms of the debate. Republicans are not arguing the free market anymore. They have sort of accepted the fact that the electorate sees health care as not just any commodity,” Krauthammer explained.
“It’s not like purchasing a steak or a car. It is something people now have a sense that government ought to guarantee.”
He believes the Senate will not accept the House plan and will come up with the plan of its own.
“Who knows where it’s going to end up, but it’s going to be a rickety arrangement,” he said.
Consequently, Krauthammer continued, Republicans likely will suffer at the polls.
“If that happens, you’re going to get a sea change in opinion,” he said.
“And then there are only two ways to go: to a radically individualist system where the market rules, or to single-payer, and the country is not going to go back to radical individualist.”
Trump: Australia has ‘better health care’
Meanwhile, President Trump turned heads Thursday night when in a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York City he praised Australia’s universal, government-run health-care system.
Describing the current U.S. health-care system as failing, he told Turnbull: “I shouldn’t say this to a great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do.”
But the U.S., Trump added, would have “great” health care very soon.
See Krauthammer’s comments Thursday night:
Trump’s comment was raised by two reporters at the daily White House briefing Friday.
“Does the president really think Australia’s system is better?”
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, filling in for Sean Spicer, responded.
“I think he was simply being complimentary of the Australian prime minister, and I don’t think it was anything more than that,” she said.
Pressed further by another reporter as to whether or not Trump meant what he said, Sanders said the president’s point was that “they have a good health-care system for Australia.”
“What works in Australia may not work in the United States,” she said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential primary challenger and an avowed socialist who long has advocated a single-payer system, immediately jumped on Trump’s remarks.
“Yes, Mr. Trump, the Australian health care system is a lot better than ours and infinitely better than the disastrous bill you supported,” he tweeted Friday.
Obama: ‘I’m for single-payer’
Democrats generally, however, have not campaigned on a single-payer system, aware of the punishing they have taken in the polls, beginning with the “Hillarycare” fiasco in the early 1990s that led to the Republican takeover of Congress up to the recent electoral resurgence of the GOP prompted by Obamacare.
But many, including President Obama and recently retired Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, are on record advocating it.
In 2013, Reid said on a local Las Vegas news program that Obamacare was “a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.”
Reid then was asked whether he meant that ultimately the country would need to have a health-care system that abandoned private insurance.
“Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes,” he replied.
As a state senator in Illinois, Obama declared his ultimate aim for health care.
“I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health-care program,” he said. “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody.”
“A single-payer health-care plan, a universal health-care plan. That’s what I’d like to see,” he said.
But Obama cautioned that “as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.”
“Because first we’ve got to take back the White House, we’ve got to take back the Senate, and we’ve got to take back the House.”
Later, as a presidential candidate, Obama reaffirmed that if he were “starting from scratch,” he would have a single-payer system.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean — referring to the health-care proposals of Democratic candidates Obama and Hillary Clinton — said the ultimate aim is the so-called “public option.”
“I think while someday we may end up with a single-payer system, it’s clear that we’re not going to do it all at once, so I think both candidates’ health-care plans are a big step forward,” he said.
See Sen. Bernie Sanders response to Trump’s comment: