Democratic Leadership Punts Again On Health Care

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to endorse U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all proposal shows again how the national Democratic leadership plans to follow a bland agenda after the disastrous 2016 general election.

Pelosi said that universal health care should not be a “litmus test” for Democrats and that she was working to save and bolster the Affordable Care Act. She later tweeted that she welcomed the discussion of the plan but never endorsed the specific proposal. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has remain noncommittal about the proposal, another red flag.

Sanders, along with 15 co-sponsors in the Senate that includes California’s junior Senator Kamala Harris, introduced the measure today. In introducing the measure, Sanders tweeted, “Americans should not hesitate about going to a doctor because they do not have enough money. They should not be cutting their pills in half.”

Under the proposal, Americans would receive free medical care without co-pays and the need for private insurance. Employers would no longer pay for private insurance but would face higher taxes to fund the Medicare expansion. Everyone 18 or under would be given a Medicare care immediately and others would be phased in over a four-year period. Physicians would sign up yearly to participate in the program.

The specifics of the proposal could change or get adjusted but the philosophical concept of it—that health care is a human right—would remain the same. The proposal would obviously lower overall health care costs and make the country’s residents healthier.

Republicans, with majorities in the Senate and House, are sure to oppose the measure, but they can only stall it as the movement for single-payer medical care grows in size and intensity. The GOP was unable to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because their proposal was even too inhumane for some of its Senators. This exposed most Senate Republicans as craven—millions of people would have lost health care so rich people could get tax cuts—and left Democrats with an opening to present their idea of what health care should look like in this country.

But it appears Pelosi and Schumer will squander that opportunity with lukewarm comments and no direct support. It’s especially frustrating on a local level that Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, doesn’t support single payer. Healthy California, a movement to install a Medicare-for-all type program in the state, has also been growing in size and intensity. Pelosi is out of touch on the issue. Let’s be clear: Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House Speaker, is playing political games when she doesn’t need to or have to at this stage in her career.

What needs to happen is that prominent Democrats, such as Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, to name just a few, should join together and support the proposal by putting pressure on Pelosi and Schumer to change their minds and fully endorse it. The Affordable Care Act gave millions more people health insurance, but it didn’t solve the overall health care crisis of unsustainable costs and high co-pays.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Pelosi and Schumer will have dinner tonight with Donald Trump to discuss the liar-in-chief’s reckless and immoral decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and health care. So Pelosi and Schumer, with no real plans of their own, will try to do business with an authoritarian, unhinged leader who manipulates and betrays people to assuage his massive ego. What could go wrong?

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