One of the problems I have with Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg is that he uses Republican talking points to attack proposals that are popular, in general and with Democrats. Partying like it’s 1999 lost its appeal long ago. Case in point–Buttigieg’s willingness to argue that Medicare for All would cost healthcare insurance industry workers their jobs (boldface mine):
Here are the facts: A study released last year found that it’s quite possible the health-care sector would lose between 1.8 million and 2 million jobs if Medicare-for-all became the law of the land. Many — though not all — of those positions would come from such patient service areas as claims processing and such hospital administrative services as medical bill coding.
These are not, in many cases, jobs that help keep people healthy. They are, instead, holders of positions responsible for deciding on the validity of your insurance claim, or ensuring the medical provider gets the maximum amount of money for it. They are, in other words, the foot soldiers in a system that is causing active harm to millions of other Americans — financially, emotionally and to their health. Despite the claim that we’ve got the best health-care system in the world, the typical American life span is falling. Polling shows 1 in 4 people with a chronic health condition reports a health insurer denied their claim and that people would, among other things, rather walk over hot coals, lose their luggage or suffer a flat tire than enroll in or review a health insurance plan.
Furthermore, Medicare-for-all doesn’t leave the people holding these endangered positions hanging. It’s all but certain, for starters, that some number of these people would transition into the new system to continue filling administrative needs. As for others, the Medicare-for-all legislation does offer downsized workers retraining, and that doesn’t even include Sanders’s initiative that would guarantee anyone who wanted it a job with the federal government paying at least $15 an hour. Moreover, there are jobs in the health-care industry that need filling now or in the future. Demand for home health-care aides to work with the elderly is surging, while other research points to a future increased demand for everything from doctors to nurse practitioners to lab technicians. Still other people would almost certainly pursue other positions — we live in a dynamic and ever-changing economy.
In other words, if your defense against Medicare-for-all is that you prefer our current system of a privatized, costly and highly inefficient jobs program that delivers inferior health-care outcomes, you should be up front about all that.
…While you are at it, you might want to also ponder other victims of economic and political change over the past several decades. Defense cutbacks after the Cold War ended led to major job losses in the defense industry, and many of those people ended up suffering long-term unemployment or underemployment.
But this issue hits home for Buttigieg for an obvious reason: the single largest employer in South Bend, Indiana (of which he is the mayor) is… a hospital system, Beacon Memorial. The South Bend Miracle is a hospital system (and Notre Dame University). While most healthcare jobs aren’t administrative (about eighteen percent are), that would still be a significant hit.
When cars and trains became the dominant mode of transportation, we didn’t worry about what would happen to farriers (“No matter what, my boy, people will always need horseshoes.”). If we’re going to have a jobs program, whether formal or de facto, let’s create the jobs we need in healthcare and other areas, not jobs designed, in part, to limit access to healthcare.