DNC Chair Tom Perez Implies It Will Take a King to Make Medicare for All a Reality

Democratic Party claims to support universal health care but refuses to back policy that would provide it

DNC Chair Tom Perez. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Medicare for All is being aggressively pushed by progressives who want Democrats to provide an opposite proposal to the Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare instead of focusing on the negative implications of the Republicans’ proposal. Establishment Democrats have been reluctant to support it—likely due to the same reasons they settled for Obamacare in 2009.

At a town hall earlier this month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told a Vice News reporter she was against including a stance in favor of single-payer Medicare for All in the Democratic Party platform, claiming it should be an issue for states to pursue individually. During Obamacare debates in 2009, a United Healthcare lobbyist hosted a fundraiser for Pelosi at his home as she began backing off a public option.

DNC Chair Tom Perez has claimed that the Democratic Party supports universal health care, but he has refused to support the policy that would create a system providing it. On May 24, he told late night host Seth Myers, “I would love, if I were king for the day, to do something akin to Medicare for all. Because Medicare has been a very good program, and it’s helped a lot of people.” His invocation of having to be “king for the day” to make Medicare for all a reality perpetuates the false narrative among establishment Democrats that supporting Medicare for All is unrealistic and intangible. The public support for Medicare for All, especially in the Democratic Party, is constantly growing due to progressive activists pushing the issue. Instead of embracing it, establishment Democrats write it off.

Perez also falsely excused Obamacare’s shortfalls compared to a Medicare for All system. “Medicare for All was almost enacted in 2009, and we were frankly one vote short of doing that.” Former DNC Chair Howard Dean tweeted in April 2016, “We did actually have 60 votes. I was being briefed by Reid and Schumer. Lieberman backed out at the last minute.” In 2009, the New York Times reported Sen. Charles Schumer offered a terrible “middle ground” compromise on health care to make health insurance companies happy, effectively giving the health insurance industry reign over the program. “Insurance companies and Republican lawmakers say a government-run plan could drive private insurers out of business and eventually lead to a single-payer system.” Politifact noted that Obama gave a similar excuse in 2009 for not supporting single-payer health care that many establishment Democrats are using now: “At his town halls as president, he routinely answers questions about single-payer by saying he would favor it if he were starting a system ‘from scratch.'”

Instead of creating a health care system for the American people, one was created for the health insurance industry. It left 29 million people uninsured and millions of others under covered or forced to face expensive premiums. The Democratic Party’s response to the GOP health care plan that will increase the number of uninsured substantially should be Medicare for All, not marginally improving a system designed to maximize benefits for the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries while allowing those who can’t afford health care to continue suffering.