Top Pelosi Aide Reportedly Told Health Insurance Company Dems Would Fight Single-Payer

Photo: Getty

The Intercept reported this morning that Wendell Primus, the top health policy aide to Nancy Pelosi and owner of an incredible name, reassured executives from Blue Cross Blue Shield in a private meeting in December that Democratic leadership “would be allies to the insurance industry in the fight against single-payer healthcare.”

Slides of a presentation obtained by the Intercept demonstrate Dems’ objections to Medicare for All that Primus reportedly highlighted in the meeting. Notably, one of the five bullet points was that “stakeholders are against,” which presumably means key healthcare industry players like drug companies, hospitals, and health insurance companies—like Blue Cross Blue Shield. Doesn’t it just make you feel great to hear that the top health aide for the top Democrat in America is holding meetings with insurance companies and telling them that single-payer isn’t going to happen because those very insurance companies oppose it? Cool democracy we have!

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Screenshot: The Intercept

According to the Intercept, Primus said the party leadership “had strong reservations about single-payer healthcare and was more focused on lowering drug prices.” He mentioned three pieces of legislation that would lower some drug costs, all of which focus on generic drugs and pharmaceutical companies using patents to prevent cheaper generics from entering the market. (This is one of—but not the only—ways drug companies can charge so much for medications, even when cheaper alternatives should be available.)

Primus told the site that he didn’t discuss dealmaking with the insurers and Henry Connelly, a Pelosi spokesman, said the presentation was intended as “a broad look at the healthcare environment and some of House Democrats’ legislative priorities over the next two years.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Scott Serota earned more than $5.7 million in 2013; the company had $1.3 billion in profit in 2017, profit made by charging individual Americans too much for premiums. Just like how Pfizer pulled in $4.1 billion in profit in the third quarter of 2018 alone by charging people too much for their medication. That is how profit is made: by charging more than the product cost to make. These are all costs the American people are paying—costs that do nothing except pad the pockets of healthcare industry executives and shareholders—but because it’s paid directly by us and not through taxes, those costs don’t seem to count, even to Democrats. You might have wanted to buy birthday presents for your kids, but you can’t afford it because your insurance premiums are $500 a month. Those are “monies needed for other priorities,” too, but apparently it doesn’t register with Democratic leadership.

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In the past couple weeks, it has become increasingly clear that prominent Democrats’ support for single-payer is extremely tenuous, and that we’re likely to see them co-opt the language of Medicare for All with a push for a public option instead. If every statement made in the last two weeks by prominent Democrats, from Kamala Harris to Dick Durbin, didn’t convince you of this, a top Pelosi aide telling insurance executives that Democrats will actively help powerful special interests undermine single-payer should be all the evidence you need.

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About the author

Libby Watson

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com