Perez Dodges Questions About Supporting Single-Payer Health Care

DNC Chair Tom Perez / Getty
DNC chair Tom Perez / Getty

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez remained reluctant on Tuesday to come out in support of single-payer health care in the United States, despite growing support from Democrats for such a system.

Perez held a press conference Tuesday with CASA in Action, a nonprofit organization that supports "Latinos and immigrants in Maryland and Virginia" and often endorses progressive candidates. During the event, the DNC chair maintained his stance on health care that has been deemed "worn out" by some in the party.

"[Democrats are] fighting for health care as a right for all, and not a privilege for a few." he said.

During the California Democratic Party Convention in May, Perez used the same line, and was booed and heckled by a nurses' union for not voicing support for a single-payer system, the Sacramento Bee reported. "We make sure that health care is a right for everyone, and not a privilege for a few," Perez said.

Perez again repeated the line in June while appearing as a guest on the "Bill Press Show," and in August while speaking to NPR.

"We believe that health care is a right for all, and not a privilege for a few," Perez told NPR. "And right now, in Washington, D.C., in the political climate in which we live, preserving the Affordable Care Act is a major victory."

Not only has Perez not endorsed a single-payer system, but in 2016, while campaigning for then Democratic primary candidate Hillary Clinton, he criticized challenger Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) for his support of single-payer health care.

"The last state, for instance, that tried to put in place a single-payer healthcare system and gave up, last year, was the state of Vermont, " Perez said referencing the state Sanders represents. "And the reason they gave up was because it would have cost literally more than their current state budget to do it. It would have required raising taxes on people like you if you were a Vermont resident. They would have had to raise taxes on everyone."

Despite Perez' pushback on single-payer health care, a number of top contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2020 have recently come out in support of Sanders' plan. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D., Mass.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), have all recently announced they will co-sponsor the single-payer health care bill.