News Release

Healthcare Cooptation by the Far Right


The far right is exploiting the public’s distress over corporate health care and the dire lack of universal health care in the U.S. 

    Eskow is a writer and the host and managing editor of The Zero Hour on radio and TV. He was the head writer for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in 2016. 

Eskow described some of the most important political actors now at play: 

  1. Libertarians, the libertarian element of the Republican Party, and more broadly, the anti-Obamacare faction. 
  2. Christian pastors who are using issues like transgender health care and abortion rights to mobilize the public against public healthcare. 
  3. A movement that grew during Covid: the spiritual/religious right, which has been infiltrated by the wellness movement and vice versa.

Eskow told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “If you break out these various groups, you see people like Megan McArdle [the Washington Post columnist and blogger], who was groomed and prompted by the Koch brothers to make their extremist ideas seem mainstream.” McArdle has formerly argued that healthcare is a business, not a right. “That argument relies on a fundamental misunderstanding, and the libertarian argument in general is a misunderstanding of how healthcare works. 

“The Libertarian Party and other libertarian advocates say the market can bring down costs and improve [health] care. But healthcare is not a market; it never is. Your doctor tells you what you need. There is no professional who tells me I need a Buick instead of a Chevrolet, but there’s a professional who says I need a chest X-ray. So the idea of ‘healthcare shopping’ is flawed. [Further,] insurance companies are intermediaries. You can only shop for insurance companies, whose incentive is to give you as little care as possible. And you have to do it prospectively, [since you] don’t know what sickness you will get next year.

“The flip side is ‘freedom’: that you should have the freedom to choose your doctor and your care. But you don’t have that freedom now; your insurance company decides that. And you certainly don’t have the freedom if you can’t afford it. [Libertarians] heavily promote things like health IRAs and other tax arrangements. But most people don’t pay enough in taxes to cover potential healthcare costs. That’s another deception. [Libertarians] slide around the fact that Medicare is very popular. With the help of Democrats, they slip private healthcare into Medicare through Medicare Advantage, which people like until they get sick and realize they don’t have any choices.” 

Other organizations, like the Heritage Foundation, suggest that Biden’s Medicare drug plan is “central planning” that will create “price fixing.” The idea, Eskow says, “is that we should celebrate paying more for drugs because that’s how we know we’re getting the best.”

Eskow also argues that there is an “unholy alliance” between some Christian pastors and Republicans. These pastors were mobilized against national healthcare on the grounds that Medicare for All is an “interference in your God-given right to healthcare.” 

Finally, the far right has exploited spiritual communities’ distrust of authority. “They are adept at making the government the authority—forgetting that in our system, insurance companies are the authority… So much of the far right’s [approach] is taking wholesome instincts and perverting them, taking the instinctive awareness that something is wrong with our system and exploiting it. Like by saying the NIH is lying to you. It resonates… Covid was a turning point. People felt alone and abandoned, and there was a lack of direction. It subverted a shared understanding of public health. They intuit part of the truth and the right builds an entire superstructure off of that.”

Donald Trump’s 2024 vision for healthcare and Social Security is still vague. Trump is once again running on not cutting Social Security, but Eskow notes that it is unclear what role the far right will have when it comes to healthcare rhetoric and policy in electoral politics this year. “Trump says that he doesn’t want to terminate Obamacare, he just wants to replace it with better healthcare because Obamacare sucks.” Medicare for All is “not on the radar this year. The progressive Democrats have folded their cards on that one.”