Lehigh Valley

Democratic candidates give views on single-payer health care

All are vying for 15th Congressional District seat

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Six Democrats, all vying for the seat that Republican Charlie Dent will leave open when he retires after this term, squared off Thursday night at Lehigh Valley Active Life in Allentown for a forum on Medicare.

The six — Gregory Edwards, Bill Leiner, John Morganelli, Laura Quick, David Weidman and Susan Wild — all advocated their support for House Bill 676 and Senate Bill 915, known better as the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All bill.

The legislation advocates a universal single-payer system and would be a rough equivalent of Canada's Medicare system and Taiwan's Bureau of National Health Insurance. It would essentially abolish all forms of private insurance and many of the existing public programs. As such. almost all health care would be paid for by the federal government. This would be paid for, in part, by taxes replacing insurance premiums. but also through savings derived through the provision of preventive universal health care, and the elimination of insurance company overhead and hospital billings costs.  

None of the Democratic candidates spoke specifically about funding or taxes associated with Medicare for All, opting instead to point out the shortcomings of the current system, in which some people do not have access to it and others can't afford the costs, they said.

Only two of the candidates —- Weidman and Morganelli — expressed any reservations whatsoever about the bill.

Weidman said that the legislation was actually "Medicare for most" and was not fair to veterans or native Americans and that he would not support the bill until that was corrected.

Morganelli said that while he would vote for it, he was realistic enough to understand that some type of compromise with congressional Republicans would be needed. Otherwise, he said, nothing would get accomplished and the country would be mired in the same situation perpetually.

After making opening statements supporting Medicare for All, portions of the candidates were asked questions by moderator Richard Master, founder of the Business Initiative for Health Policy and a producer of television documentaries advocating for universal health care.Here are some of the candidates' comments:

Edwards : Said that two-thirds of the United States Congress is "in the back pocket" of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry, thus making any reform of the industries unlikely. Those members, he said, include Republicans and Democrats. He said the primary problem with health insurance in the United States is the profitability of corporations over the health of the American people. He claimed the current system was "an absolute travesty" and that "now is not the time for incrementalism" when it comes to replacing the current health care system.

Leiner: Advocated that "now is not the time to be bashful" when it came to substantive health care reform. He classified the current system as "awful" and detrimental to "the working man." Leiner added that many individuals, including senior citizens who are on Medicare, often vote against their own interests, thanks to conservative, right wing "propaganda" offered by Fox News Channel and talk radio, which has done a disservice to the American people and has "divided our country."

Morganelli: Noted that "health care is the number one issue" facing the American public. He advocated for increased congressional oversight into price gouging and what he called a "rigged system" and a "monopoly." He said there was plenty of blame to go around, including on the "provider side and the insurance side." Morganelli said history shows that it took many, many years to create substantive health care change, and said he understood that sometimes compromise has to be made to advance causes.

Quick: Said that Medicare is more efficient than market insurance because of out of control administrative costs associated with private insurers. She told a story of how she had once been a teacher, but became a driver for the United Parcel Service because the company had good health coverage for their employees. She said someone should "not have to take a job" strictly for health care coverage. Quick noted that she had lived a portion of her life in France, where the health care system was outstanding and that everything was covered. She said it was "a weight off her mind" because the French know that "they will be taken care of." She added that the United States should view the French as "what we want to work toward."

Weidman: Discussed his experiences in combat through his service in the United States Air Force, and noted that he was fortunate to have coverage through the Veterans Administration. He said that all veterans deserve "proper care' when they return home and that the distressing rates of veteran suicides show our country has fallen short of that plateau. He noted that many veterans had to travel great distances to receive their coverage. Weidman noted this was also true for many native Americans. He added that Americans suffering and dying because they cannot afford health insurance is a "repugnant failure of our system" and "un-American."

Wild: Said that "equal access to health care is right." She told a story how her father and mother died and noted that "no one ever chooses to get cancer or heart disease."  Wild added that the United States needs to "eliminate profit motive for drug companies" to actually address skyrocketing health insurance and drug costs. She added that lobbyists had badly compromised the United States Congress  She laid the blame for health care costs at the feet of corporations who revel in "greed." Wild also supported the importation of drugs from other countries, such as Canada. Wild added that the country was electing individuals who are "off the rails" and had to instead elect "smart and competent" people.

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