By Tessa Stuart and Jann S. Wenner
Rolling Stone, February 27, 2019
Rolling Stone: There’s a lot of debate on the question of single-payer, Medicare for All — we’ve heard that expression just recently. What do you think should be done? Where do you want this to go?
Nancy Pelosi: This is a very interesting debate, and in any debate, as I start off this conversation, you must define your terms. Let’s stipulate to some facts here: When we passed the Affordable Care Act, for us, it was a pillar of health and economic security for America’s working families — 125 million families got better benefits, more reasonably priced, with no annual or lifetime caps, and with no prohibition if you had pre-existing consumer protections. We were on a good path, and when [Republicans] took over [Congress], they let certain things expire. People say, “Well, it’s not doing this or that.” Well, it did until it expired. Restore the reinsurance. Elect more Democratic governors so that Medicaid can be expanded and millions more people can have access in an affordable way. I myself wanted to have the public option. We couldn’t get that through the Senate, but we enabled states to do a public option if they want. This made as drastic a difference as day and night. Now, of course, everyone isn’t covered because in certain states they didn’t expand Medicaid, so now [people are proposing] Medicare for All.
When they say Medicare for All, people have to understand this: Medicare for All is not as good a benefit as the Affordable Care Act. It doesn’t have catastrophic [coverage] — you have to go buy it. It doesn’t have dental. It’s not as good as the plans that you can buy under the Affordable Care Act. So I say to them, come in with your ideas, but understand that we’re either gonna have to improve Medicare — for all, including seniors — or else people are not gonna get what they think they’re gonna get. And by the way, how’s it gonna be paid for?
Now, single-payer is a different thing. People use the terms interchangeably. Sometimes it could be the same thing, but it’s not always. Single-payer is just about who pays. It’s not about what the benefits are. That is, administratively, the simplest thing to do, but to convert to it? Thirty trillion dollars. Now, how do you pay for that?
So I said, “Look, just put them all on the table, and let’s have the discussion, and let people see what it is. But know what it is that you’re talking about.” All I want is the goal of every American having access to health care. You don’t get there by dismantling the Affordable Care Act. As Californians have said to me, “We get billions and billions of dollars out of the Affordable Care Act coming into California. Now they want to get rid of that.” How are they gonna go to single-payer in California without the money from the Affordable Care Act? Anyway, this is not a bumper-sticker war — this is a complicated issue.
The Viral Confrontation with Dianne Feinstein Had a Political Impact Most Pundits Missed
By Aida Chavez and Ryan Grim
The Intercept, March 1, 2019
There is Twitter, and there is the real world. Occasionally, the two meet.
It happened over the last week, starting with a visit by a group of children and young activists with the Sunrise Movement to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Bay Area office last Friday. Their exchange — about whether the California senator would vote for or co-sponsor the Green New Deal resolution authored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. — went viral. It led to a turbocharged debate about whether the video had been edited, but it also brought with it a tangible change in the halls of Congress.
In her now-infamous response to the Sunrise activists, Feinstein said she was in the process of drafting her own, more moderate resolution on confronting climate change that she felt would have a better chance of passing in the GOP-run Senate. The viral Twitter clip, which has racked up more than 9 million views, was the first time many people had heard of Feinstein’s alternative resolution, and when climate activists learned about it, they went into overdrive to stop it. Feinstein, facing pressure, this week elected to shelve it.
The senator’s reversal was one of several moments that has gone unnoticed in the fight for the Green New Deal, as young activists face skepticism from entrenched environmental groups and field regular criticism for their practice of protesting Democrats. What those critics miss is that it was a protest of a Democrat — then-prospective House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — that put the Green New Deal on the map, and now a second action against a Democrat has yielded a second success for the activists.
On Tuesday, the Sunrise Movement led a nationwide day of action, holding office visits, rallies, and office takeovers across 34 states to pressure lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to support Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s resolution. That their conversations with Democrats have borne more fruit should be instructive as they try to gin up more support the Green New Deal.
When hoping to stop a bold piece of legislation that has broad public support, one of the oldest moves on the Senate floor is to introduce a different version that is claimed to be just as good, but more reasonable. “I’ve been in the Senate for a quarter of a century, and I know what can pass, and I know what can’t pass,” Feinstein said last week.
On Monday, the Sunrise Movement, in the form of roughly 250 Kentucky high schoolers, occupied McConnell’s Senate office, resulting in 35 arrests.
While the sit-in got little attention in the press, it appeared to have gotten McConnell’s. The majority leader, who is up for re-election in 2020, had recently been eager to put the Green New Deal on the Senate floor. All of a sudden, however, he suggested that it would come up at some point before the August recess.
“This wouldn’t have happened without thousands of people across the country pressuring senators of both parties. Two weeks ago, McConnell was excitedly telling the media about his plans. Now, he seems happy to let this vote be forgotten,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Considerable enthusiasm has been generated amongst single payer Medicare for All supporters with the introduction of Pramila Jayapal’s H.R. 1384 – The Medicare for All Act of 2019. As expected, the opponents are coming out of the woodwork. Perhaps most disappointing have been the responses of those who would prefer to continue to support the Affordable Care Act and add a public option – a Medicare buy-in for some.
In an effort supposedly to keep the Democratic coalition together, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are attempting to suppress the Jayapal bill using the rhetoric of the Republicans – “How’s it gonna be paid for?” – knowing that it could not pass in this session of Congress anyway with Republican control of the Senate and The White House. To protect the moderate Democrats in red districts they are advocating for legislative proposals that would support the current, highly deficient system. In so doing they are passing up a tremendous opportunity to educate not only the public at large but also their colleagues in Congress.
Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein are two seasoned California politicians who believe they have mastered the political process (and, in many ways, they have). But witness Feinstein’s incident that shows that it is never too late to learn new lessons. (As an octogenarian physician/policy analyst, I’m still learning new lessons every day).
Feinstein met with a group of primary and secondary level students who enthusiastically presented her with cogent arguments in support of the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey Green New Deal resolution. In a video that went viral, Feinstein blundered through a surprisingly somewhat rude response and then presented the students with her own pablum version of a green resolution. It did not take her long to realize that her response fell far short of that of a master politician, and so she elected to shelve her resolution. This proved to be a teachable moment for Dianne Feinstein. She may not endorse the Green New Deal, but at least she has more respect for it and for its supporters. The students had something important to say, and much of the world agreed with them, thanks to the viral distribution of their message.
We are seeing a similar process in the House of Representatives right now. The Jayapal bill is precisely the reform we need for our overpriced and underperforming health care system – a system so large that it is approaching one-fifth of our economy. And yet several members of Congress are producing pablum bills to displace the legislation that we need, and Nancy Pelosi is supporting them. As she says, “All I want is the goal of every American having access to health care. You don’t get there by dismantling the Affordable Care Act.” Further she says, “When they say Medicare for All, people have to understand this: Medicare for All is not as good a benefit as the Affordable Care Act.” Has she been practicing composing Trumpisms? The Jayapal Medicare for All Act is vastly superior to ACA – absolutely no contest!
The Green New Deal will not pass in this session of Congress. Neither will the Medicare for All Act of 2019. But we cannot replace these concepts with pablum and walk away. We need to take a lesson from the children who confronted Dianne Feinstein and stand up for the cause. Health security and even our lives are dependent on it. Fight for single payer Medicare for All and reject emasculated substitute measures that would have hardly even a nominal impact on the problems before us.
Activism! Now! Fight unrelentingly for H.R.1384!
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