In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, a number of Democrats expressed their support for a single-payer health care system, sometimes referred to as Medicare For All. Since the election, even more Democrats have touted the plan, including a number of 2020 presidential contenders, and the issue seems poised to a be a top priority of the party going forward.
However, party leadership may not be entirely on board with the left base’s desire for single-payer healthcare. In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has actually worked behind the scenes to sabotage Medicare For All, news that has greatly angered the far-left base of her party.
Meeting with health insurance executives
According to a report from The Intercept, in December, just after the consequential midterm elections in which Democrats regained control of the House, then-presumptive Speaker Pelosi sent a top health care policy aide to assure executives of major insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield that they shouldn’t be concerned about talk of Medicare For All.
According to unnamed sources “familiar with the meeting,” that adviser, William Primus, told the insurance executives that Democratic leadership had serious problems with the idea of single-payer health care system, and would instead be focusing their efforts on lowering the cost of prescription drugs and protecting what remains of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Primus was said to have laid out in a prepared slideshow a number of objections the party’s leadership had with the idea, namely: the exorbitant estimated costs, the fact that it would create winners and losers, that stakeholders were against it, that taxpayer funds were needed for other priorities, and that it would be incredibly challenging to implement such a program.
Base feels betrayed
But there remains widespread support among the left for a single-payer, Medicare For All-style healthcare system — and there are plenty of rank-and-file Democrats who have expressed anger at Pelosi for “sabotaging” the push for that policy behind their backs
Emblematic of that feeling of betrayal is progressive leftist Cenk Uygur, who exploded on Pelosi in a recent episode of his popular leftist program, The Young Turks. Uygur lambasted the establishment Democratic leader as being beholden to corporate interests, not the desires of the people.
Disputed accounts of meeting
While Dems like Uygur are taking hard stances against Pelosi, The Intercept’s version of events has been disputed by all involved. A spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield told the outlet: “We don’t discuss private meetings, if there was such a meeting.”
Primus told the outlet that he never discussed any sort of deal with the executives, a narrative that was echoed by Pelosi spokesperson Henry Connelly, though both seemed to confirm that the meeting did indeed take place.
“We’re not going to barter lower prescription drug costs for inaction in the rest of the health care industry,” Connelly said. “The presentation was a broad look at the health care environment and some of House Democrats’ legislative priorities over the next two years in a period of GOP control of the Senate and White House.”
Connelly went on to assert that Pelosi has called for committee hearings on Medicare For All proposals.
“The biggest obstacles facing Medicare for All right now are Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump,” he said. “But in the near term, there is a window for Democrats to press Trump to help pass aggressive legislation to negotiate down the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs.”
But whether the allegations against her are true or not, Speaker Pelosi has now found herself caught in between the more moderate corporatist establishment wing and progressive socialist wing of her own party. How she manages to tip-toe her way out of this morass is anybody’s guess.