House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came under fire from single-payer proponents Thursday after she deployed what one healthcare policy expert described as "probably the most dishonest argument in the entire Medicare for All debate."
"People who love their employer-based insurance do not get to hold on to it in our current system. Instead, they lose that insurance constantly, all the time. It is a complete nightmare."
—Matt Bruenig, People's Policy Project
In an interview with the Washington Post, the Democratic leader said she is "agnostic" on Medicare for All and claimed, "A lot of people love having their employer-based insurance and the Affordable Care Act gave them better benefits."
Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People's Policy Project, argued in a blog post that Pelosi's statement "implies that, under our current health insurance system, people who like their employer-based insurance can hold on to it."
"This then is contrasted with a Medicare for All transition where people will lose their employer-based insurance as part of being shifted over to an excellent government plan," Bruenig wrote. "But the truth is that people who love their employer-based insurance do not get to hold on to it in our current system. Instead, they lose that insurance constantly, all the time, over and over again. It is a complete nightmare."
To illustrate his point, Bruenig highlighted a University of Michigan study showing that among Michiganders "who had employer-sponsored insurance in 2014, only 72 percent were continuously enrolled in that insurance for the next 12 months.
"This means that 28 percent of people on an employer plan were not on that same plan one year later," Bruenig noted.
— Matt Bruenig (@MattBruenig) April 5, 2019
"Critics of Medicare for All are right to point out that losing your insurance sucks," Bruenig concluded. "But the only way to stop that from happening to people is to create a seamless system where people do not constantly churn on and off of insurance. Medicare for All offers that. Our current system offers the exact opposite. If you like losing your insurance all the time, then our current healthcare system is the right one for you."
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All On Medicare—a pro-Medicare for All Twitter account—slammed Pelosi's remarks, accusing the Democratic leader of parroting insurance industry talking points:
— All On Medicare (@AllOnMedicare) April 5, 2019
"We all share the value of healthcare for all Americans—quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans," Pelosi told the Post. "What is the path to that? I think it's the Affordable Care Act, and if that leads to Medicare for All, that may be the path."
The nation's largest nurses union was among those who expressed disagreement with the Speaker's incrementalist approach.
In a statement last week, National Nurses United president Zenei Cortez, RN, said Pelosi's plan would "only put a Band-Aid on a broken healthcare system."
"National Nurses United, along with our allies, will continue to build the grassroots movement for genuine healthcare justice and push to pass Medicare for All," Cortez concluded.