THE BLOG
01/31/2016 01:44 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2017

Hillary Isn't Making Sense: How Does 'Debate' on Bernie's Single Payer Plan Equal Obamacare Repeal?

I'm a bit, shall we say, confused by Secretary Clinton's criticism of Senator Sanders' call to implement a single payer health care plan. On Friday she declared that such a plan is an "idea that will never, ever come to pass." We can agree or disagree on the soundness of that prediction, but that's at least a coherent statement. Then she continued:

I want you to understand why I am fighting so hard for the Affordable Care Act. I don't want it repealed. I don't want us to be thrown back into a terrible, terrible national debate. I don't want us to end up in gridlock. People can't wait. People who have health emergencies can't wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.

People can't wait. You daughter calls and says she has a mass in her forehead, you can't wait. You quit your job to take care of your sick daughter -- something I think a lot of us can relate to -- you can't wait.

In the words of Tom Hanks' character in Big: I don't get it. What she's saying literally makes no sense. Talking about, debating and either passing -- or failing to pass -- a single-payer health care plan won't force anyone having a health emergency to "wait" for anything. Doing so won't take health care coverage away from anyone. Doing so won't "repeal" one iota of the Affordable Care Act until and unless a new law is not only passed but implemented.

If we end up in gridlock while discussing single payer, the Affordable Care Act remains in place. Surely Secretary Clinton knows this. Surely anyone who has even the slightest clue about how laws work in this country knows this. Yet she seems to be telling voters something different. She's leaving them with the impression that even having a "terrible, terrible national debate" about single payer will somehow weaken or destroy the Affordable Care Act.

If Clinton wants to make a substantive case for why Obamacare is superior to single payer, have at it. It's also certainly within the bounds of reason to dismiss single payer as a pipe dream -- as she has done -- and argue that we should focus instead on improving the existing system. If we want to be generous, maybe that's what she's getting at in the quotation cited above.

However, by trying to scare people by talking about Obamacare repeal, and emergencies, and having to wait after hearing that your daughter has what sounds like a possible brain tumor, she goes beyond that very reasonable point and into something that's just not accurate.