Rep. Jayapal Challenges Biden on Labor Unions and Health Insurance

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal—who favors creating a national single-payer system that ensures healthcare as a human right for all Americans—responded critically on Saturday to 2020 presidential primary front-runner Joe Biden’s recent comments about labor unions and employer-based health insurance.

The congresswoman from Washington state is the lead sponsor in the U.S. House of the Medicare for All Act of 2019. Jayapal’s response to the former vice president came in a series of tweets, and followed criticism of Biden from another 2020 contender—Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime single-payer advocate and lead sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill.

During an interview with CNN that aired Friday, as Common Dreams reported, “Biden suggested he supports allowing Americans to buy in to Medicare instead of going all the way to Medicare for All, which he slammed as disruptive and costly despite studies showing it would save the U.S. trillions of dollars in overall healthcare spending.”

“If they like their employer-based insurance, which a lot of unions broke their neck to get, a lot of people like theirs, they shouldn’t have to give it up,” Biden said. “If you don’t go my way and you go their way you have to give up all that. What’s gonna happen when you have 300 million people landing on a healthcare plan. How long is that going to take? What’s it going to do?”

Sharing the relevant clip from Biden’s interview, Jayapal tweeted Saturday, “This argument that ‘unions broke their neck to get employer-based insurance’ is an OLD argument that isn’t relevant today.”

The congresswoman listed some of the labor unions supporting her Medicare for All bill—including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and National Nurses United (NNU)—and argued that these organizations “understand” the benefits of transforming the country’s for-profit healthcare system through proposals such as hers.

For example, Jayapal wrote, unions understand that “workers are paying more and more for their employer-insurance because for-profit insurance companies are raising premiums hugely for employer healthcare as well.”

“Unions understand that when they have to bargain for healthcare, they give up money that should be used for wages,” the congresswoman continued.

Labor unions also “understand solidarity and standing with [the] least amongst us,” she added. “They’re ready to fight for ALL OF US.”

Read Jayapal’s full Twitter thread: