If I could banish one term from politics it would be "universal health care." Too often, business Democrats deploy the phrase to trick voters into believing they support health care plans that cover every American resident, when in reality they do not.
That's exactly how Washington U.S. House Rep. Derek Kilmer uses the term in his somewhat misleading but admirably socially distant ad:
After the camera cautiously approaches Kilmer, the four-term ivy-league incumbent from Gig Harbor says, "Folks shouldn’t have to choose between their health or their paycheck...That's why I fight for universal health care, and making coronavirus treatment free."
The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that "fighting for universal health care" means supporting Medicare for All, a plan that truly offers universal coverage, but they'd be wrong.
At a town hall last year, Kilmer said he wouldn't sign onto Seattle Rep. Pramila Jayapal's Medicare for All bill because he couldn't with certainty "look you in the eye and say, ‘We will replace your employer-provided health care with something better." He also argued that the bill would pose a financial threat to rural hospitals, though Congressional Budget Office health care analyst Dr. Jessica Banthin argues that the exact opposite is true.
A little over a week ago, it sounds like he told Indivisible Tacoma a similar story. "While Kilmer expresses support for universal healthcare, he has a list of objections to the Medicare for All bills (now forged by Rep. Jayapal) that we do not believe are accurate," the Congressional advocates write in their summary of Kilmer's response to their questionnaire. "The Jayapal bill does take many, if not all, such objections into consideration. If he truly wanted to assure universal healthcare (without the negative effects of profiteering), he could work in concert with Jayapal to amend the bill to meet his objections. We have asked him to do so but have seen no movement in that direction."
Kilmer prefers a public option, which he believes would spur competition among insurers that would "lower costs." But a public option doesn't provide "universal health care" access or coverage. Vice President Joe Biden's plan, which increases Obamacare subsidies and implements a public option, would still leave between 10 and 15 million people uninsured. "Post-coronavirus, it will leave millions more uninsured, and it will have little to offer those who keep their employer-based plan but find themselves paying more and more for less and less," Ezra Klein explains in Vox.
If Kilmer's position on this issue has changed in the last week, that change isn't reflected on his website, which doesn't even mention support for a public option. And anyway, given his status as chair of the conservative New Democrat Coalition and the thousands he receives from the likes of Gilead, Big Pharma, and insurance industries, he has little motivation to change. I've requested comment from Kilmer's team, and will update this post if I hear back.
In the meantime, if the people of Washington's 6th Congressional District are searching for a candidate who supports universal health care, they can look to Kilmer's progressive challenger, Rebecca Parson, who supports Medicare for All.