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Northam in 2011 Debate: Healthcare Is a “Privilege,” NOT a Right

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A bombshell dropped today in the Virginia Governor Election courtesy of a six-year-old debate question asked of Ralph Northam during his 2011 State Senate reelection campaign against Republican Ben Loyola. The question: “Do you believe that health care is a right or a privilege?” To which, as per the video below, Northam responds:

I believe it’s a privilege.

And let me clarify that.

If people can get up in the morning and go to work like I can, then it needs to be a privilege. They need to work for their health insurance, for their benefits.

If they’re disabled, I will take the shirt off my back to help them.

In the face of the House GOP’s pushing through the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA, aka #TrumpCare (or, more accurately, the TCCLAAHCA: Trump Couldn’t Care Less About Americans’ Health Care Act) and the unified Democratic voice that we should fix and strengthen (not repeal) the Affordable Care Care (ACA, aka ObamaCare, and accurately, the ODCAAHCA: Obama Does Care About Americans’ Health Care Act), hard to imagine that most Democratic Party primary voters in Virginia support the framing of (even just basic preventive) health care as a “privilege” as opposed to a right (e.g., universal coverage as legitimate societal objective).

Ralph Northam, in the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial primary, has seemed to have the edge over Perriello when it comes to health care issues — doctor, track record on medical issues, support from abortion rights organizations, etc.  This video bombshell could put a serious dent in Northam’s healthcare “armor.”

Northam has had the challenge of explaining his past. Voting for George W Bush (twice) … Self-described “conservative.” Potentially never voted for a Democratic politician before his own election. This video adds to the challenge.

As per after the fold, this bombshell did not magically appear: the Perriello campaign sent it out to the press.

NOTES:

  1.  Full video here.
  2. Truth in disclosure, I explained my reasons for supporting Perriello in Choosing Tom.

Perriello press release:

From: Perriello Press <press@tomforvirginia.com>
Date: Tue, May 9, 2017 at 10:48 AM
Subject: Ralph Northam in 2011: Health Care Is a ‘Privilege’
To: Perriello Press <press@tomforvirginia.com>
Ralph Northam in 2011: Health Care Is a ‘Privilege’
 
Monday evening, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s record “questioning” the Affordable Care Act came to light in a Washington Post report, which stated, “While seeking reelection to the state Senate in 2011, Northam offered tempered support for the law, expressing concerns with the tactics Democrats used to pass it and questioning if it went far enough to bring down the cost of health care.” In response, Northam’s spokesman told the Post, “He firmly believes that every American and Virginian has a right to affordable health care.”
 
But in 2011, when Northam was running for reelection to the Senate, a debate moderator asked him this question: “Do you think that access to quality health care is a right?” and Northam replied, “I believe it’s a privilege.”
Tom Perriello has been a consistent champion for health care reform. The Daily Beast called Tom “the most courageous man in DC” for taking the tough vote to expand access to health care to millions of Americans, regardless of political consequences. In Congress, he not only voted for health care reform; he fought for it, pushing to ensure pre- and post-natal care were included in the Affordable Care Act and even supporting a version of the law that included a public option. He also ran in a conservative district on the belief that access health care is a right, saying, “Every American deserves access to a doctor.” 
Background:
 
In a 2011 state Senate debate, at the height of the backlash towards President Obama over health care reform, Ralph Northam was asked whether he believes access to quality health care is a right. 
  • Moderator: “Do you think that access to quality health care is a right or should it be left to the market or charity?”, Northam: “I believe it’s a privilege.” [6th District Senate forum, 10/26/11]
  • Northam: “I believe it’s a privilege. And let me clarify that. If people can get up in the morning and go to work like I can, then it needs to be a privilege. They need to work for their health insurance, for their benefits. If they’re disabled, I will take the shirt off my back to help them.” [Vivian J. Paige blog, 40:00 mark, 10/29/11]

Northam also reportedly objected to being called a “key defender of the president’s federal health care law” in 2011.

  • “Among the Republicans who invoke Obama’s name for political gain is state Senate candidate Ben Loyola of Virginia Beach. He’s claimed his opponent, Sen. Ralph Northam of Norfolk, is a key defender of the president’s federal health care law and his ‘failed economic policies.’ Northam rejects that characterization.” [“Va. GOP eager to hitch Democratic opponents to Obama,” Virginian-Pilot, 10/19/11]
Northam refused to attend an event with President Obama in 2011.
  • “Republicans seem more excited than Democrats about President Barack Obama’s bus tour in Virginia this week, seeing it as another chance, weeks before the state legislative election, to link opponents to the president’s weak poll numbers and the slumping economy. Obama will speak at a Hampton military base today on the final leg of a three-day tour to promote elements of his jobs plan. As he arrives, Republicans say, members of his party in Virginia are retreating. They note that some rural Democratic members of the General Assembly have distanced themselves from Obama and his policies, while others have emphasized compromises they’ve made with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.Voters are understandably frustrated by partisan bickering in Washington, but they want state Senate candidates to explain how they’ll represent local interests in Richmond, Northam said. He won’t attend the president’s speech.” [“Va. GOP eager to hitch Democratic opponents to Obama,” Virginian-Pilot, 10/19/11]
Progressives, including President Obama, have long criticized the idea that health care is a “privilege,” not a right.
  • President Barack Obama, 6/7/13: “Quality, affordable care is not some earned privilege – it’s a right.”
  • Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, 6/25/12: Health Care As a Privilege: What the GOP Won’t Admit — “Their reason for failing to defend their actual principles is obvious enough: That tens of millions of Americans deservedly lack a right to basic medical treatment is a politically difficult proposition. Thus, they oppose Obamacare without defending the indefensible conditions they actually favor. Their tactic of adding vague gestures toward unspecified future reforms has been so successful that news reports almost uniformly describe the Republican health-care stance as yet-to-be-determined, rather than an outright defense of maintaining health care as an earned privilege rather than a right.”
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders op-ed, 6/8/09: “Health care is a right, not a privilege”
Republicans have explicitly noted health care is a privilege and objected to the idea health care is a right.
  • Former S.C. Rep. and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, Charleston Post & Courier, 8/18/09: “I think health care is a privilege. I wouldn’t call it a right.” 
  • Former Tenn. Rep. Zach Wamp, The Hill, 3/5/09: “Healthcare is a privilege…for everyone, frankly, it’s not necessarily a right.”
  • Former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, YouTube floor speech, uploaded 9/17/10: “Mr. Speaker, our government has been mismanaging medical care for more than 45 years. For every problem it has created, it has responded by exponentially expanding the role of government. Here are some points I’d like to have my colleagues consider. Number 1: No one has a right to medical care.”