Pelosi to Trump: Put Up or Shut Up on Healthcare

The main stories coming out of the 2018 midterm elections were the historical number of women who ran for office and the way women mobilized to form a resistance to Donald Trump. There were two flashpoints that, more than anything else, spurred women into action: (1) the attempt by the president and congressional Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, and (2) the administration’s policy of separating families at our southern border.

The fairly universal backlash to the family separation policy resulted in its rollback, even as the administration admits that the number of refugees affected is much larger than we initially assumed. But after congress failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, the administration has continued efforts to undermine the program by almost every means at their disposal.

While Democratic presidential candidates discuss the various pathways towards universal health coverage in the future, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be focused on what can be achieved over the next two years. Her top health policy aide, Wendell Primus, met with executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield shortly after the midterms and Ryan Grim obtained a copy of his power point presentation.

Grim’s focus was on one of the 15 slides that explored the paths to universal coverage.

The first point is something we already know: Democrats are united around a goal of getting to universal coverage. The second point, about the ACA being the best path to universal coverage, is currently under discussion. Primus then goes on to outline the challenges faced by transitioning to a single-payer system as a means to universal coverage. The five items listed are what is sparking the discussion about various pathways and are likely to be considered when the House holds hearings on Medicare for All. While that discussion is taking place, Speaker Pelosi has an agenda to get started on right away.

“The biggest obstacles facing Medicare for All right now are Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump,” [Henry Connelly, a spokesperson for Pelosi] added.  “But in the near term, there is a window for Democrats to press Trump to help pass aggressive legislation to negotiate down the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs.”

Primus concluded his presentation with a bullet point that summarized Pelosi’s mission on health care: “Lower your health care costs and prescription drug prices.”

Throughout both his campaign and presidency, Trump has promised to provide lower cost health care and bring down the cost of prescription drugs. But so far, he hasn’t done anything on either front.

In the coming months it is very likely that we will see Democrats in the House take up legislation to address both of these issues. Demonstrating that Pelosi knows her audience, recent polling suggests that she is on exactly the right track when it comes to protecting Obamacare and lowering prescription drug prices.

What that tells us is that Pelosi’s mission on health care over the next two years will be to tell Trump to “put up or shut up.” The reason that’s such a smart move from the Speaker is that it is not only good policy, it’s good politics too.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.