Sanders Commits to Hearings on His Single Payer Bill, Says Vermont Single Payer Waiver Unlikely to Be Denied

(Readers, this is the follow-up for this post.) Our Vermont Correspondent writes:

I spoke with Bernie just after he arrived, while he was going around the room shaking hands.

Q: What assurance is there that between now and 2016 the forces of money won’t or can’t act to deny Vermont the waiver from the ACA?

SANDERS: Anything can happen. At any time. Having said that, I will say that I don’t think it’s likely.

Q: Why not?

A: Because they would have to mount a large initiative to repeal it—marshal a large number of groups across the board to gdt rid of it, and if they did manage to do it, the president will veto it [oh? —lambert].

Q: Why are you supporting S. 1782 [here; and here; and the House version, HR 1200] and not HR676, which already has strong support from many constituencies?[1]

A: There is a large constituency and support for this law [S915]. The support is there. [His tone seems to suggest that there is as much support for S915 as for HR676]. And I feel that this is a strong way to bring single payer forward because there are individual states that are ready to initiate their own versions of single payer.

Q: As [Jim] McDermott [House, D-WASHINGTON] does?

A: Yes.

Q: is there any possibility of getting hearings on either bill?[2]

A: Yes. there will be hearings [awesome! —lambert]. I’ve been talking with Tom Harkin who is on the [I forget which one he said] Committee and he is interested in getttng some hearings going. *

Q: When?

A: Can’t predict, of course, but it’s going to happen.

*Harkin is chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and of the Appropriations Committee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, so it could have been either, it went by me too fast and I didn’t catch the name.

William Greider’s piece “How to Revive the Fight for Single Payer” in the Nation explains more about McDermott’s rationale for sponsoring S915. Greider’s is a clear presentation.

* * *

Other notes on the dinner:

During dinner, Sanders gave a short speech and took questions. One person asked about the Koch brothers, another asked about what he would do about the TPP. He began by saying he had fought hard to preserve Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans benefits in this week’s budget battle. Someone asked him what he thinks motivates people like the Kochs—the 1 percent. He said he thinks it is basically about power; we’ve only had 300 or 400 years of challenging the ability of kings and the monied class to do as they wished to those without power, and he thinks the 1 percent currently are trying to bring us back to that situation, where “I can bail you out if you’re in trouble if I choose at my discretion, but if I don’t want to I won’t.” It is about power. [No mention of a global neoliberal program, other than talking about how Washington is now in the grip of an extreme right wing.]

Sanders says, we have to pass a constitutional amendment to citizens united and law to limit campaign contributions.

In answer to another question, Sanders says he sees access to health care, unemployment, support when you’re old, and equal rights for all — e.g. women and african americans — are all issues of human rights, that everyone is entitled to these things so that every person in society can have dignity.

He frames it all in terms of “It’s very rough down there, and we are up against people who want to completely get rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the minimum wage, the EPA.”

He is working hard on funding for Meals on Wheels and “senior centers like this one.”

A question is asked about the talking filibuster. He says, next term there will be a minimum wage debate and I think we should go for a vote of 50, which is how many we have, and just push it through rather than it having to be 60. That was his last comment.

* * *

I happened (pure accident) to sit with someone who is a Navigator for Vermont Health Connect. She was talking enthusiastically about ObamaCare and all the people she is helping by talking them into signing up—self-employed people who are reluctant to sign up because they think they should be able to manage on their own, people who have had no coverage and are eligible for Medicaid. Also at the table was a guy who lives locally and works with the Vermont Workers’ Center.

I brought up at the table (they didn’t know I’d spoken with Bernie, as I had done so before they sat down with me) my concern about the waiver in 2017.

Navigator: It’s true, anything can happen. but I think it’s unlikely.

The Vermont Workers’ Center guy agreed—he, too, thinks it is unlikely.

I: I’m concerned that after the fallout in the next election it could happen.

Navigator: What fallout?

I: The fallout from ObamaCare.

Navigator: Oh no, the fallout is going to be positive!! We [the Democrats] are going to win in 2014!!

I: I disagree. I think a lot of people are going to be unhappy when they find out about the narrow networks, the high copays, the high deductibles, and people are still going to be going bankrupt under this system.

The Navigator started throwing a lot of numbers at me, how hospitals are willing to make payment plans, and how the maximum amount a family would have to pay for a major health expense is [i THINK she said] $12,000.

The person I came with (a social worker), to me: What? That’s a lot of money! [calculating] … I couldn’t afford that.

I: That would bankrupt me.

Surprised look on the face of the person opposite me, and no response from the Navigator next to me, as she turned back to her conversation with the person on her other side.

In another part of the conversation, I said I thought the biggest problem re: Vermont single payer process right now is getting information on what is going forward. The Vermont Workers Center guy told me they have people on all the key legislative committees and are watching and participating in the process very closely. Also on MLK day, they are having panels around the state for people to present their stories and learn about what is happening in the process, with panelists from the state who presumably will answer questions. This sounds good, and it will be available via community TV afterward.

Thanks for this report!

NOTE I did some formatting, very light copy editing, and added some notes, but otherwise this report appears as received. Vermont Correspondent also writes: “Please bear in mind this is not an exact report. I wrote down what he (and others) said as best I could from my memory, which is unfortunately no longer perfect. I think i have caught the gist of everything, but many of the words are reconstructed by me after the fact without adequate notes.”

NOTE [1] Hat tip, marym.

NOTE [2] Hat tip, DCBlogger.

UPDATE Bill number corrected.