Lee Fang wrote a really good article over at The Intercept on Monday, GOP Officials Publicly Denounce Bernie Sanders’ Obamacare Expansion, Quietly Request Funding. It is about Sanders’ work since his days as the mayor of Burlington on community health clinics. And while he’s been in the Senate, he’s been very successful at getting funding for clinics. That is most true of all regarding the ACA (Obamacare) where he managed to get $11 billion of funding “extending the number of people served by clinics from 18 million before the ACA to an expected 28 million next year.”
The great thing about these clinics is that they provide a kind of universal (if rationed) healthcare. They accept all people who come, regardless of their ability to pay. I used one of them myself a few years ago. It required showing up at the clinic before 6:00 am to stand in line in the cold winter air. (Yes, it was California, but Californians are wimps!) And the treatment I received was excellent. Obviously, such clinics make sense in a nation that refuses to even consider a single-payer system. This is a far more efficient way to provide healthcare than having people show up at hospital emergency rooms.
Fang provided some history of these clinics. I had assumed they went back forever. But that’s not true at all. They started in the early 1960s. Apparently, people who came to the south to work on voting and other civil rights were seen as “outside agitators.” As a result, the good doctors of these areas refused to treat them. (That’s one way of interpreting the Hippocratic Oath!) This lead to the formation of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR). They set up clinics. But the doctors noticed that the African American populations did not have much or any access to medical care. Eventually, this grew to providing clinics throughout the nation in poor communities.
As with most things involving Obamacare, of course, the funding of clinics is not branded. So the great expansion of clinics over the last couple of years has not been seen as due to Obamacare — for good or bad. But as Fang noted, “That relative invisibility has shielded health clinic funding from the hyper-partisan attacks faced by other provisions of the law. But it has also allowed Republican opponents of Obamacare to play a two-faced game.” Every single Republican in Congress has voted to Repeal Obamacare — that’s why they’ve voted on it so many times. It is like a rite of passage: all Republicans in Congress must have the experience of voting to repeal the law. (Yes, it is silly — even pathetic.)
But that means that these Republicans have also voted to repeal this funding for the clinics. Of course, there are all kinds of things that everyone loves in the law. But Republicans are not deep thinkers. If you had to describe what Republicans are in one word, it wouldn’t even be close: demagogues. But these same votes to repeal funding for the clinics has gone along with — What a surprise! — these same politicians taking credit for the clinics.
Of course, conservative hypocrisy is hardly news. But unfortunately, the fact that Bernie Sanders is a highly successful legislator generally is news — even to his supporters. I’m troubled by what I see as the Dennis-Kucinich-ization of Sanders. That’s the idea that he’s just ideologically correct but that he doesn’t have great skills outside of that. And Sanders isn’t just a good legislator; I’ve been impressed with just how good a politician he is. This doesn’t mean that he’s going to win the nomination, much less the presidency. But I think people should take him more seriously and look at who he really is.