From the AFL-CIO blog--Trumka: Senate Health Care Bill Must Change to Be Real Reform: The health care bill being considered by the U.S. Senate is ina
December 19, 2009

From the AFL-CIO blog--Trumka: Senate Health Care Bill Must Change to Be Real Reform:

The health care bill being considered by the U.S. Senate is inadequate and too tilted toward the insurance industry, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today.

In recent days, as the Senate has debated health care reform, small numbers of senators have held health care hostage by threatening to block a vote. The new proposal by the Senate puts the interests of insurance companies—and senators who would rather look out for the insurance companies—ahead of real reform.

Trumka said the top priority now is to fight over the rest of the legislative process to fix the bill and make sure we can pass real health care reform:

The labor movement has been fighting for health care for nearly 100 years and we are not about to stop fighting now, when it really matters. But for this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men and women, substantial changes must be made. The AFL-CIO intends to fight on behalf of all working families to make those changes and win health care reform that is deserving of the name.

Continue reading...

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

BLITZER: Liberal push-back on health care reform, including from the AFL-CIO, who's president calls the bill being debated in the U.S. Senate right now "inadequate." He says it's tilted toward insurance companies.

That president of AFL-CIO, President Richard Trumka, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about it.

The way it is right now, if this were the final language signed by the president into law, you wouldn't be happy with it.

RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, this bill would never get through the House. I don't think the House could pass this bill or would pass this bill.

BLITZER: You don't think Nancy Pelosi, if she puts her hand on and says, "You know what, we've got to get together, it's better than nothing, we got to do it," she couldn't do it? TRUMKA: I don't this bill passes the House.

BLITZER: What issue do you hate the most?

TRUMKA: Well, I think they tie together.

BLITZER: All right. So, tell me what you really dislike about the Senate language.

TRUMKA: OK. So, first of all, they haven't done a public option to break the stranglehold of the insurance companies. To do cost control, their cost control method is to put an excise tax on workers' benefits so that small business...

BLITZER: So, those are two separate issues.

TRUMKA: Yes, well, they tie together.

BLITZER: The fact there's no public option, a government-run insurance company to compete with the private companies, that -- the president and the others say, "You know what, there's not enough votes in the Senate," they need 60 votes and they can't get 60 votes for that.

TRUMKA: Well, we'll see. We're not going to quit working on any of these issues.

BLITZER: Joe Lieberman says he's not going to support that. That's...


BLITZER: If Joe Lieberman says no, that's 59.

TRUMKA: We think that this bill as currently constituted won't pass the House. So, the president won't get to sign it. I told you this, public option doesn't break -- is needed to break the stranglehold of the insurance companies. It's not there. So, as a result...

BLITZER: So, that's one issue that you don't like. The other is what they call these "Cadillac" plans. And I know you don't like that phrase, but that's what they call them. They -- in the Senate bill, they want to tax some of the premier health insurance...

TRUMKA: Well, it's not true.

BLITZER: Tell me.

TRUMKA: They're not necessary premier plans.

BLITZER: That's what they call the Cadillac plans.

TRUMKA: Well, they're for small...

BLITZER: A lot of your members have these plans. TRUMKA: A lot of them have them, a lot of small business has them, a lot of medium-size business has them. The cost goes up because you may have a small union and a catastrophe. If you have somebody who has cancer in a small business group, their premiums go up, and they're going to get taxed. So, this is their form of tax -- of cost control.

BLITZER: This new tax on these insurance policies, including for a lot of AFL-CIO members, that is something that you couldn't -- you couldn't live with, right?

TRUMKA: That's absolutely right. It's -- and neither can small business.

BLITZER: Have you told that to the Democrats in the Senate?

TRUMKA: And neither -- and neither can the rest of working America. Because, look, here's the fallacy of it, Wolf. First of all, they say this is only going to affect 3 percent of the people. But yet they say that 3 percent of the premiums is necessary to keep health care costs down.

That's absolutely ludicrous. You can't have it both ways. You can't say, "I'm going to tax small business and workers as a way to have cost control." And what that means is workers and small business will get higher deductibles, higher co-pays and less coverage.

BLITZER: If this tax of the so-called Cadillac plan goes through, would that be...

TRUMKA: I reject the notion...

BLITZER: Of the Cadillac plan.

TRUMKA: ... all of these are Cadillac.

BLITZER: All right.

TRUMKA: I just reject that.

BLITZER: If this new tax in the Senate language were to go through, would that be a betrayal of the president's commitment as a candidate that, you know, he wasn't going to raise the taxes on anyone earning less than -- a family earning less than $250,000 a year?

TRUMKA: Look, I'm not ready to go there yet. Where I'm ready to go is say the AFL-CIO and America's working people aren't done fighting. We fought for over 100 years to get health care for America. We're going to continue to fight to get the best bill for the American public that we can. Hopefully, it will be an improvement, not it will be -- a step backwards.

BLITZER: So, even if the Senate passes, you'll find it in the conference committee between the House...

TRUMKA: Absolutely. BLITZER: ... and the Senate.

TRUMKA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Listen to what David Axelrod, the president's senior adviser, told me here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday. Listen to this.



DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: This reform holds them accountable in a way they've never been held accountable before with a set of consumer protections that would work for all Americans, not just those who don't have insurance.


BLITZER: He was responding to the criticism, including from the AFL- CIO. In your statement, you say it is too kind to the insurance industry, the Senate version. And he says it holds them accountable, the private insurance companies.

You disagree with Axelrod?

TRUMKA: No, there are some good things in the bill. I don't want to make it sound like there's nothing good in it. But it doesn't do, it looks at the wrong way to control costs. The right way to control cost would have been to have a public health insurance option and create competition for the insurance companies, not give them 31 million guaranteed new customers without having any cost control method.

The cross control method that the Senate advocates is taking health care away from workers in small business as a way to hold down costs. That's simply not acceptable. That's not reform. And that's being too kind to the insurance companies whose profits are going to increase.

BLITZER: I want you to react briefly to former President Bill Clinton, who issued a statement yesterday. "Take it from someone who knows: these chances don't come around every day. Allowing this effort to fall short now would be a colossal blunder, both politically for our party and, far more important, for the physical, fiscal, and economic health of our country."

Here's the question: is the country better off or worse off assuming the Senate version is the final version with that bill?

TRUMKA: Look, I'm not going to assume that, because I'm not ready to say that's the final product.

Everybody says you can't get 60 votes in the Senate. You have to remember, you're going to get votes in the House as well. And the Senate bill won't get those number of votes. We're ready to fight. We're going to continue fighting for the American people to improve this bill as best we can, and then we'll make a decision on it.

BLITZER: And then, in the end, you'll see what the actual language of the bill says.

TRUMKA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: So, you got a fight on your hands.

TRUMKA: We do, and we're up for it.

BLITZER: Mr. Trumka, thanks very much for coming in.

TRUMKA: You bet, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

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