They Are Such A Good Investment: Top Hospital Lobbyist Predicts Pelosi Will Block Vote On Medicare For All

Medicare for All opponents have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pelosi and House Corporate Democratic leaders.

By Andrew Perez Maplight & Alex Kotch
Sludge (4/12/19)

A top hospital lobbyist told a room of health care executives this week not to worry about “Medicare for All” and suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won’t let the idea come up for a vote during the current Congress.

Tom Nickels, the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) executive vice president for government relations, spoke at the organization’s annual conference on Monday, a day before Pelosi addressed the same Washington, D.C. ballroom.

Although Nickels said that President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate would never support the idea of a government-run universal health care system, he predicted Pelosi also will work to block Medicare for All legislation, in hopes of protecting moderate Democrats in swing districts.

“Improved Medicare for All is popular and achievable—we know how it would work, how to set it up, how to run it. The problem is the deep-pocketed interests who are happy with the status quo, who have limitless money to burn to keep the gravy train running.”

“We’re going to hear again from Mrs. Pelosi tomorrow,” he said. “She’s trying to thread the needle here, and she understands the difficulty that Medicare for All will provide for her caucus and for some of her members who have to go get re-elected, and my guess is she’s going to be pretty adept in making sure that nothing comes up that harms her members.”

In the bag

Indeed, Pelosi—who, along with the Democratic House leadership and party committee, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from anti-Medicare for All interests—did try to thread the needle at AHA’s conference on Tuesday. “We all share a common goal: quality, affordable health care coverage for all,” she said. “There are many paths to this goal; you’ve heard of some of them. Some of them may not be advocated today. Medicare for all, single payer, whatever it is, all that creative tension is valuable as we go forward.”

“But we can’t go down any path unless you strengthen the Affordable Care Act,” she said, referring to the 2010 health care law that Republicans have sought to overturn and have chipped away at for almost a decade. Although the ACA forced insurers to cover patients with pre-existing health conditions, nearly 14 percent of American adults were still uninsured at the end of 2018, according to Gallup. Insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays have continued to increase. The U.S. spends roughly twice what other high-income countries do on health care—with worse results.

While Medicare for All is popular among voters, the party’s presidential candidates, and 108 House Democrats, Pelosi and other House leaders have questioned the potential costs of such a program and whether Americans would want to abandon their private health insurance plans. Congress will hold hearings on Medicare for All, but Pelosi hasn’t promised a floor vote for any single-payer bills.

“For a century, powerful corporations have been the main obstacle blocking the achievement of real universal healthcare in this country,” Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, told Sludge and MapLight. “Improved Medicare for All is popular and achievable—we know how it would work, how to set it up, how to run it. The problem is the deep-pocketed interests who are happy with the status quo, who have limitless money to burn to keep the gravy train running.”

Bankrolling Democratic leaders

The AHA is one of more than two dozen health care trade organizations and companies that are members of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF), a coalition created last year to oppose Medicare for All. A PAHCF spokesperson told MapLight and Sludge that it is a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit organization registered in Delaware.

Since 2009, Pelosi has received $243,000 in campaign donations from PAHCF members’ employees, and their corporate political action committees, including $55,000 from the AHA, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by MapLight and Sludge. Pelosi’s top deputy, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has received $360,000 from PAHCF members, including $50,000 from AHA, $55,000 from the Federation of American Hospitals,  and $50,000 from the American Medical Association.

Last week, Sludge and MapLight reported that corporate lobbyists with clients in the health care industry, including PAHCF members, raised $440,000 during the first two months of the year for the Democrats’ main House elections arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Politico reported this week that a number of House Democrats who have pledged to reject corporate PAC donations have held fundraisers with corporate lobbying firms or accepted donations from their employees.

PAHCF members’ PACs have contributed more than $1.2 million to the DCCC since 2009, including more than $190,000 from the AHA. The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers has donated $152,000 to the DCCC, and has also given $90,000 to the committee’s “building fund.” PAHCF members and their employees have also donated $76,000 to the campaigns of DCCC chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) since she first started running for Congress in 2011. Bustos has received $34,000 from the AHA.

“The AHA and the other members of the PAHCF are clearly under the impression that if they spend enough, Democratic leadership will undercut Medicare for All,” said Dylan Dusseault, executive director of the Business Initiative for Health Policy, an advocacy group that supports Medicare for All. “So far, they’ve been proven right.”…

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  • Is Nancy Pelosi Opposed To Medicare For All? — Top Nancy Pelosi Aide Privately Tells Insurance Executives Not to Worry About Democrats Pushing “Medicare for All”... That’s from Ryan Grim at the Intercept, and it’s kinda sorta accurate. It’s based on a PowerPoint deck used for a presentation to Blue Cross Blue Shield executives, but let’s skip the opening slides on prescription drug costs, breast re-excision rates, and different-day elective upper and lower endoscopy rates. Here’s the slide on universal health care … Read the Rest


‘I Felt Americans Needed to Know’: Insurance Industry Whistleblower Gives Glimpse Of Move To Crush Medicare For All

“When we are in the White House your greed is going to end,” Sanders wrote.

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (4/12/19)

In an effort to inform the public about the corporate forces working to crush Medicare for All, an employee at the insurance giant UnitedHealthcare leaked a video of his boss bragging about the company’s campaign to preserve America’s for-profit healthcare system.

“I felt Americans needed to know exactly who it is that’s fighting against the idea that healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” the anonymous whistleblower told the Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein.

During an employee town hall in February, Stein reported on Friday, UnitedHealthcare CEO Steve Nelson boasted about how much his company is doing to undermine Medicare for All, which is rapidly gaining support in Congress.

“When the people begin organizing against private insurance, the lonely insurance executives turn to their only friends: the elected officials beholden to their cash.”

“One of the things you said: ‘We’re really quiet’ or ‘It seems like we’re quiet.’ Um, we’ve done a lot more than you would think,” Nelson said. “We are advocating heavily and very involved in the conversation. Part of it is trying to be thoughtful about how we enter in the conversation, because there’s a risk of seeming like it’s self-serving.”

According to the Post, which did not publish the video of Nelson’s remarks, the executive said his company “opposes Medicare for All because it excludes the private sector, which he said does a better job of delivering healthcare than the government, and said he doubted how a single-payer system could be funded or effectively administered.”

Nelson’s remarks were leaked just days after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential contender, unveiled his improved Medicare for All bill with the support of 14 Democratic senators and over 60 progressive organizations representing nurses, physicians, and consumer advocates.

Sanders called out insurance and pharmaceutical industry greed in a statement following the introduction of his bill, which would virtually eliminate the private insurance industry and provide comprehensive healthcare to every American.

“In my view, the current debate over Medicare for All really has nothing to do with healthcare. It’s all about greed and profiteering,” said the Vermont senator. “It is about whether we maintain a dysfunctional system which allows the top five health insurance companies to make over $20 billion in profits last year.”

On Friday, Sanders took to Twitter to send Nelson a message.

“When we are in the White House your greed is going to end,” Sanders wrote.

$8 million stolen from providing care

UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of United Healthcare, raked in around $17 billion in profits and “spent about $8 million on lobbying efforts” in 2018, Stein reported.

UnitedHealthcare’s fight against single-payer, Stein noted, comes “amid a broader push from the health insurance industry to prevent legislation to enact Medicare for All from getting off the ground, including by trying to direct Democrats toward more centrist efforts and reject plans that would effectively legislate many of the companies out of existence.”

“[A]bout half a dozen representatives of lobbying firms said they had pushed for meetings with Democrats over single-payer and other proposed government expansions of healthcare,” according to Stein.

In a statement to the Post, Medicare for All campaigner and policy expert Tim Faust said, “When the people begin organizing against private insurance, the lonely insurance executives turn to their only friends: the elected officials beholden to their cash.”

One of the industry-backed groups leading the fight against Medicare for All is the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which is comprised of major pharmaceutical and insurance interests.

The Partnership launched a six-figure ad campaign against Medicare for All earlier this year, warning the popular proposal “would cause massive disruption to the current healthcare system.”

After the Partnership launched its first digital ad against Medicare for All in January, Wendell Potter—an insurance industry executive-turned-whistleblower—said, “It’s almost impressive how many lies they’re able to fit into such a short clip.”

Watch Potter’s breakdown of the Partnership’s ad: [Follow link below.]

(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)

Link to Story and 4-Minute Video


Cartoon: Blacklisted By The DCCC 

By Jen Sorensen
The Daily Kos (4/9/19)

In case you haven’t heard, the DCCC – the arm of the Democratic Party that works to elect members of the House – recently introduced a policy restricting its vendors from working with any candidate challenging a Democratic incumbent. In other words, no existing officeholder can be primaried (and if they are, the consultants who help them can’t work for the DCCC). While I understand the logic of supporting incumbents and don’t really have a problem with the party favoring them in most cases, this policy is both draconian and divisive. To quote Rep. Ayanna Pressley, “If the DCCC enacts this policy to blacklist vendors who work with challengers, we risk undermining an entire universe of potential candidates and vendors – especially women and people of color – whose ideas, energy, and innovation need a place in our party.” … Link to Story and Cartoon