November 14, 2002
Gore Supports Single-Payer
On a stage in a synagogue on New York's Upper West Side Wednesday night,
Gore made this stunning announcement to several hundred people in response
to a question from the event's host.
Gore suggested he was hesitant to reveal his position at this forum - but
then declared that he had come "reluctantly" to the conclusion that
single-payer is the best solution to the nation's health insurance crisis.
Long supported by the left, single-payer plans involve all money spent on
health care being collected by some public agency or trust fund, which then
pays for comprehensive coverage, delivered privately and publicly, for all
Issues of taxation, quality of care, availability of care, and medical
innovation are all implicated in such a system, with Canada's plan often
used as the basis for understanding and analysis.
For Gore, this represents a shocking switch. Although many of the people who
worked with Hillary Clinton and Ira Magaziner on the Clinton health care
plan at the start of the Clinton/Gore Administration were intellectually and
morally sympathetic to single-payer, it was rejected as being simply too
radical and too big a political target.
Even Bill Bradley, who frequently charged Gore during the 2000 presidential
primary with being timid on finding health care solutions, disappointed many
of his own supporters by not coming out for single-payer.
And if Gore is a presidential candidate for 2004, this gambit would allow
him to outflank on the left even Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose calls for
massive new spending on health care so far do not include support for
Gore's decision to go public with his new position could be viewed as part
of his reported avowal to speak more from the heart on big issues he cares
about, feeling less encumbered by what polls and focus groups might say is
Some surely will see Gore's switch as part of a series of calculated moves
perhaps intended lock up the left wing of the Democratic party in hopes of
securing the party's presidential nomination.
Others will say that Gore isn't even necessarily running for president, and
is feeling liberated enough to speak his mind and take bold policy positions
deriving from his nearly unparalleled experience in, and knowledge of, a
range of foreign and domestic policy issues.
It is surely the case, though, that potential 2004 rivals Gephardt, Edwards,
Kerry, Lieberman, Dean, and Daschle can all be expected now to take
positions in relation to single-payer.