February 9, 2016

Feingold Flip Flops On Single Payer Health Care

When former Senator Russ Feingold answered a question about his close ties to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in his recent Marquette Law School interview, listeners may have been so focused on his glowing praise for the avowed socialist that they missed a moment where Feingold appeared to have a slip of the tongue.

Discussing his and Sanders’ shared history of pushing for government-run health care, Feingold began to call for a “single payer” system, before abruptly cutting himself off and substituting “public option”:

FEINGOLD: In fact, Bernie and I were holding out for an even stronger bill on the Affordable Care Act. We wanted a single-payer – we wanted an option, an option to opt in, a public option.

A Roll Call story noted Feingold’s quick self-edit, and the former senator’s spin doctors immediately moved to distance him from his pro-single payer record:

Asked whether the former senator supports a single-payer approach, Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler said “there can be an honest debate about how to achieve” universal coverage. But the spokesman hastened to add that if Feingold were to win back his Senate seat, he does not plan to introduce single-payer legislation or push for its adoption.

“Right now, Russ is focused on increasing access to health care through the framework of the ACA,” Tyler said.

That’s a major flip flop from Feingold’s consistent support for single payer health care throughout his career. When he first ran for senate in 1992, “Russ” said he believed in “a universal health care system with a single-payer”:

Maybe Feingold will try to dismiss that answer just like he tried to dismiss his 1992 fundraising pledge as ancient history when explaining away yet another 2016 flip flop. The problem? He continued to advocate for a single payer system for his entire time in the senate.

In a 2009 interview, then-Senator Feingold told Democracy Now! that he had “always” supported the policy, and that the “goal” of health care reform “is to create whatever legislation we have in a way that could be developed into something like a single payer system”: