Anthony Weiner held a Manhattan press conference this afternoon to tout the benefits of the health care bill, ahead of a Congressional vote to repeal the bill this week.
“When someone comes into a hospital emergency room needing health care, they get it,” Weiner said. “The question isn’t whether or not we are going to provide health care to Americans, it’s how we are going to pay for it and what way that health care will be provided. The fact is when you have so many people coming into the hospital uninsured, it’s not as if the bill fairy pays for it. Taxpayers pay for it, hospitals pay for it in unreimbursed care.”
Weiner said that if the bill was repealed, nearly 1.2 million New Yorkers would go without health insurance, 6.4 million would be at risk of being dropped unexpectedly by their insurance providers, and it will cost the city over $3 billion in health care expenses over the next ten years.
And he attacked Republicans for what he said was an agenda more focused on undoing the work of Democrats, and not concerned with actually putting forward an agenda of their own.
“They were elected on a platform that revolved around almost entirely what they were against,” the Queens congressman said. “For the first time in my memory as a politician, they didn’t have anything that looked like an affirmative agenda. They have not put forward their health care plan. They haven’t said what it is that they want to do. But they know they are against this health care plan…That’s why they announced a schedule that we have off a week every month. Because it doesn’t take long to vote to repeal health care every week, and then you can go home. I think fundamentally they have a bankrupt affirmative agenda. Many of us have said the real first thing you should do is put forward your collection of changes. What is it you would like to do? And they are not doing that.”
Although Republicans have scored big electoral gains since the health care bill first began to be debated in 2009, Weiner and other Democrats say they are looking forward to once again attempting to sell the American people on some of its more popular provisions.
“This debate is worth joining,” Weiner said. “I think it’s worth it having a discussion because it gives us another bite at the apple to explain what this health care bill means and what it would mean for it to disappear. It is an article of faith that when you talk about something that someone is going to get it is sort of abstract, but when you take something away from someone that they already have it becomes much more specific and concrete. Some have argued, ‘Let’s let this thing go and move on to the next issue,’ I believe we should vigorously engage this.”
Weiner was a vocal critic of the bill during the debate over it, arguing for a far more progressive and vigorous plan that included expanded Medicaid and a public option. He said that it was not inconsistent to now be a fierce defender of it.
“There were a lot of pressures during the creation of this, tugging this to a place that I think would have virtually nothing. I thought it was very important to express a view that we should be much more ambitious. I think, and I’ve said this to the President of the United States, I think that my idea was simpler, of just expanding Medicare slowly to cover more Americans until eventually everyone was covered, taking the $300 billion in health care overhead and profit out of the formula. But I also believe, and this is not an inconsistent thought, what we passed is worlds better than what the status quo was.”
And he quipped:
“If we had done the Weiner plan we would have not lost 80 seats, and we would not be even thinking of repealing it, but you know, I think that of all of my proposals.”