Thom discusses health care with Martha Kuhl, Vice President of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, 03 August 2009


Thom Hartmann: So, for our weekly labor segment right now,, Martha Kuhl is with us. She is the Vice President of the California Nurses Association, the National Nurses Organizing Committee and Oakland, California Registered Nurse, specializing in pediatric oncology. And it’s, I guess it was a week or so ago, the anniversary of Medicare and the need for healthcare reform, a single payer system. Martha Kuhl, welcome to the program.

Martha Kuhl: Yes, thank you. Good morning.

Thom Hartmann: You’re uh, if I’m reading this right, you’re putting much of your hope on Congressman Kucinich’s amendment to allow states to experiment with single payer. We had Congressman Kucinich on the program last week, talking about this, and the ERISA legislation actually makes it illegal for states to experiment with single payer systems, and this would just blow that out and make it possible. It’s not going to mandate it or even facilitate it. But at least it would stop prohibiting it. Is that the best we can do?

Martha Kuhl: Well, everybody knows so far, I believe, that Obama and Congress have refused to consider Medicare for all. And so, we’re hoping that this, Kucinich’s amendment, was in the final bill on Friday afternoon. And it would allow states to implement single payer. We know that in California, twice, we’ve passed single payer bills, only to be vetoed by the Governor, by Schwarzenegger. And Kucinich’s amendment would grant states a waiver to implement. In Canada, single uh, their Medicare for all, single payer system, was implemented province by province. So since there isn’t the political will nationally, currently, to do this, yes, maybe this is our best hope.

Thom Hartmann: The, you said, you pointed out correctly that twice single payer healthcare systems have been brought forward by the California legislature and vetoed by the Republican Governor. Would, had he not vetoed them, would it have run afoul of ERISA?

Martha Kuhl: It may have. This came to light as more and more states were implementing this kind of legislation. California is not the only state, I believe Maine has come closer, Vermont.

Thom Hartmann: I think Hawaii did at one point.

Martha Kuhl: Yes, yes. But I don’t believe anybody’s been able to implement statewide yet. And California is a huge economy, and we could take the lead on this. Not that I’m giving up on the national level, for Medicare for all.

Thom Hartmann: Mhm. What’s your sense, you’ve got your ear to the ground of what’s going on, both with labor and certainly as VP of the California Nurses Association, with medical professionals. I’m curious your sense of where we might go or what might happen if the teabag folks, who are sabotaging town halls all over the country for politicians, are successful in intimidating both Republicans and Democrats to vote against the President’s plan and it dies the death that Hillary Clinton’s program did, as flawed as that was. And, you know, might we be able to resurrect single payer out of these ashes? Or do you think the well is going to be poisoned?

Martha Kuhl: Well, unfortunately, that is what happened after healthcare reform didn’t get enacted in the early ‘90’s. But I believe the situation is even worse now and people all over the country understand that their loved ones aren’t getting the healthcare they need. In our job based systems, with many people losing their jobs, people have no access to healthcare. And as a nurse, it’s heartbreaking to see people not get the healthcare that they need. I think we’ll be able to do it, and this Kucinich amendment makes it more important than ever. If Congress passes nothing else, except for something that would allow the states to implement, then we would have the ability in California to do this.

Thom Hartmann: We’re talking with Martha Kuhl, the Vice President of the California Nurses Association and on the National Nurses Organizing Committee, and of course a Registered Nurse in Oakland, California. And Martha, we just have a minute left here. Where is organized labor on this? Are they gonna be coming out as aggressively as the right-wingers are coming out in opposition to the current program?

Martha Kuhl: Organized labor, especially California Nurses Association, National Nurses Organizing Committee and CSEA are really pushing the Medicare for all option. Unfortunately, not all of organized labor has been strong on this issue, but everyone is supporting healthcare reform.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Do you think that a single payer, that the public option will bring us closer to single payer?

Martha Kuhl: It could if it was a Medicare for all option as opposed to some other kind of privately administered, um.

Thom Hartmann: Like in Massachusetts.

Martha Kuhl: Yes, exactly.

Thom Hartmann: The Massachusetts plan is a mess and it’s going down in flames for obvious reasons.

Martha Kuhl: Yes, and mandating people to buy health insurance won’t work.

Thom Hartmann: No. You know, it works for car insurance, arguably, but this is much bigger than that. Martha Kuhl, the web site. Thank you very much for dropping by today.

Martha Kuhl: Thank you.

Thom Hartmann: Good talking with you.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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