Max Baucus, Montana’s longest-serving senator, said in an interview published today by The Bozeman Daily Chronicle that after years of adamantly believing otherwise, he now thinks “we’ve got to start looking at single-payer.”
This is a surprising development for someone who used to believe single-payer was the one option they had to leave off the table. Eight years ago, Baucus was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, playing a key role in the negotiations surrounding the Affordable Care Act. This was during his time as senator for Montana, a role he filled from 1978 to 2014. (He only left it when Obama appointed him ambassador to China, which he served as for three years before Trump fired him.) At the time, Baucus thought single-payer could never be passed by the United States government.
Now, however, Baucus says comparing hospitals in Canada to those in his state of Montana has changed his mind. From The Chronicle:
“But you can see the difference, Baucus said, when you visit hospitals on either side of the border. In Montana, half a rural hospital will be dedicated to processing medical insurance claims. In Canada, he said, just one small room is needed to verify that patients are residents.”
“And Americans pay much higher drug prices, he said, because the government can’t negotiate better prices with the drug industry, so U.S. patients end up subsidizing drug prices for the rest of the world.”
“Now President Donald Trump’s administration and Republicans in Congress are trying to undermine Obamacare so it will collapse, he said. “I think it’s tragic.””
“My personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer,” Baucus said Thursday night at Montana State University. “I think we should have hearings…. We’re getting there. It’s going to happen.”
For someone like Baucus to support single-payer is both shocking and a sure sign of which way the wind is blowing. You would think he’d be the last Democrat to support it, and with him on board, how long can it be before single-payer support is a must for the entire party?