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Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock argues for single-payer health care reform Pt.2

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SHARMINI PERIES, JOURNALIST, TRNN: Welcome to Women’s Take on The Real News Network. I’m joined by Senator Nan Orrock. She’s a state senator from Georgia. Welcome back.

NAN ORROCK, STATE SENATOR, GEORGIA: Thank you. So good to be with you.

PERIES: Senator, let’s talk about something that is in the hearts and minds and bodies of women, which is health care. And you’ve been a ardent supporter of the single-payer health care that is being proposed by, you know, large movements, including the California Nurses Association. And yet, you know, this government and Senator Baucus, for example, won’t even allow it on the table. What do you think of that?

ORROCK: I think that’s a measure of what’s going on politically in this country. We are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have a universal health-care policy in place. And that has much to do with how private sector interests have driven the conversation and the political decision-making. We saw what happened early in the Clinton term, first term, when it was torpedoed, and any mention of health at all—reform—was torpedoed. And we’ve continue to see escalating prices to health care and dire consequences of having almost—you know, what is it?—150 million people, nearly, that are uninsured and more than that that are underinsured. Women really drive the health-care decisions in their families. Their voices are very important in this conversation. And I’ve seen, as a woman in the state legislature, all across the country at the state level, it’s been women legislators who’ve been introducing reforms to health care. And a lot of times it’s tweaking; it’s saying that you cannot deny people with a certain disease condition of access to their drugs, or you’re not allowed to do this, or insurance companies have to cover the contraceptives, FDA-approved contraceptives if you have a plan to cover pharmaceuticals. I passed that bill in Georgia. It’s been women legislatures across the country that have driven that policy or the policy around insurance companies having to allow 48 hours in the hospital for a mother and newborn or 72—. I’m simply saying women have been very proactive as policymakers at the state level on health policy, and I expect them to weigh in heavily on this national debate that’s going on in Congress. The single-payer plan is not on the table. I think that that’s a mistake, and I think it underestimates where the American public is. It’s listening more to the private-sector interests who have a money interest in the outcome of health-care reform, as opposed to listening to the people. And we’re certainly, around the country—. I introduced a resolution in Georgia, in the senate, calling for support of HR 676.

PERIES: President Obama is saying that if he were to start from scratch, that single-payer system might be feasible. And, in fact, he supported such a plan when he was a candidate. And now that he’s in office, he’s saying this may not be feasible. It’s not feasible why?

ORROCK: It’s not feasible because the votes are not there in Congress for single-payer. That’s why it’s not feasible.

PERIES: And what about Senate?

ORROCK: Well, Senate is a part of Congress. You know, you’ve got the House and the Senate are—. The Senate is very much a stopping place for a lot of things these days. We need—we have a very slim, slender, slender majority there as Democrats, and we do not have all the Democrats on board. And that’s—I—all those that I have a lot of confidence in, the Progressive Caucus, in Congress, we hear from all quarters that a single-payer plan lacks viability because the votes are not there in Congress for that plan.

PERIES: And if the Democrats have control of the Congress and they are not supporting the single-payer plan that President Obama thinks is a good plan, what are the problems? What are the issues? Why is it not feasible within Congress?

ORROCK: Precisely because, I think, the deep-pocket special interests are very strong drivers of policy in Washington. That’s no surprise. We see it at every turn, and it’s manifesting again this time. They know that they have a president who’s much more resolute around making change and who has a broad, broad base of support for his presidency at this point who came in with a mandate. And they—I believe the private sector feels they’re up against a formidable foe. However, that doesn’t—he cannot change water into wine just because he’s Barack Obama.

PERIES: But he does have a mandate. He was elected on a mandate, which is bring health-care—.

ORROCK: That’s right, and he has been making change every day since he got here. He added 10 million more children for to have coverage under the children’s health insurance plan, which had been stalled in the water under the Bush administration. And many programs were in dire straits down in the states because of that lack of federal money. So he’s done huge steps already. He can’t turn water into wine, though. He cannot do it single-handedly. So I’m part of the voices from the states urging that single-payer be looked at as a viable option, and in fact the one that makes the best sense dollar-wise. I am not optimistic that that point of view will prevail in Congress. It’s very important to get a public health option. That’s where the battle lines are drawn right now in Congress. Like it or not, that’s the real politics in Congress is: are we going to have a public health option in the plan or not? We’ve got to fight vigorously and furiously to have a public health option. I want a single-payer plan. A public health option can be a step in that direction and lay the groundwork for later.

PERIES: And WiLL is supporting your position?

ORROCK: No, I’m not speaking for the Women Legislators’ Lobby when I talk about that health policy.

PERIES: And what is WiLL’s position on—?

ORROCK: WiLL’s position is that we need to make wiser use of our money and not blow all our dollars on military spending that’s ill-conceived, unnecessary, and actually has bad outcomes often, and that we should redirect unnecessary, bloated military spending into human services, funding human services, human beings and environmental protections. And, of course, if we have a massive and sweeping reform of the military budget, that will free up money for us to do what needs to be done in the health-care arena. But that won’t of itself ensure that we have a single-payer plan. It’s a political debate going on in this country. I urge the voices for a single-payer plan to be resolute and loud. And I also understand in the world of real politics the votes aren’t there in Congress at this point, from—some of my staunchest allies and progressives that we’ve helped elect in Congress know that the votes are not there for a single-payer plan at this point. But I think that is no reason not to raise that as a policy option. If, sadly, it does not prevail, it is raised, and fight like hell for the public-health option to be included right now.

PERIES: Thank you, Senator. Senator Orrock for joining us on The Real News Network. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

ORROCK: My pleasure. Thank you.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Senator Nan Orrock was elected to the Georgia Senate in 2006, and is the president of Women's Legislators' Lobby. She is also the vice-chair of the Interstate Cooperation Committee. was elected to the Georgia Senate in 2006, following her service in the House of Representatives for two decades. During her tenure in the House, she was elected as the first woman to hold the position of majority whip. She also served as the Governor’s Floor Leader, a member of the Speakers Policy Committee and a committee chair.