Activists are suspicious of a sleek new group's intentions.
There is a pronounced liberal eagerness to embrace noble-sounding rhetoric upon first hearing. It arises from fine qualities, including idealism and a fundamental belief in human goodness. This impulse is beautiful. It is tender. And it can sometimes lead people astray.
Consider the United States of Care, a new organization that has been warmly received by some progressives. USC is led by former Obama health official Andy Slavitt. Slavitt is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and McKinsey consultant. The most prominent Republican face in the organization is former senator Bill Frist, a physician who became wealthy as an HMO executive. The group also includes health insurance executives and former health officials from both parties.
Slavitt has reportedly created an investment fund (more here) that hopes to make money from "low-income, high need populations" -- that is, people who depend on the government for their health care. That's a pretty fundamental conflict of interest.
The group still might be worthy of support, if it's well designed and has the public's best interests at heart. And the United States of Care agenda certainly sounds good, which is why some liberal luminaries in Hollywood and in politics promptly gave it their social-media seal of approval. What's not to like about a program that, in the words of a Slavitt op-ed, is "founded on the premise that no American should have to go without the care they need"?
Unfortunately, many unanswered questions remain, and what we have seen so far is worrisome.
A Matter of Principles
The group insists that it is steering clear of specific policy proposals so that it can build bipartisan consensus based on three core principles. A careful parsing of those principles raises some serious concerns.
Those principles are:
"All Americans should have access to a regular source of care for themselves and their families."
Why a "regular" source of care? Why not say that everyone should have access to "quality care, regardless of financial circumstances"? Or why not use the centrist rhetoric of previous years and promise "universal coverage"?
"No one should face financial devastation due to illness or injury."
This even avoids that standard-issue centrist word, "affordable." The word "devastation" suggests a very low level of financial protection, at a time when increasing numbers of Americans report putting off needed medical care because of the cost.
So-called catastrophic insurance plans would arguably fit this criterion, and they are disastrous for working families. Even Donald Trump's health insurance proposal, flimsy as it was, could conceivably fit the bill.