By Michelle L. Price
LAS VEGAS — Elizabeth Warren told members of Nevada’s powerful casino workers’ union Monday that she wants to see their strong health care plans replicated around the country but the Democratic presidential candidate sidestepped the details of her Medicare for All proposal and how it might affect the union.
Warren spoke at a town hall in front of several hundred members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and its national affiliate, Unite Here, after touring the union’s health center earlier in the day. Warren said under her plan, the health care that the union members experience and count on is “not supposed to change.”
“To me, what you’ve got is not something we want to make harder. What you’ve got is something I want to see replicated all around America,” Warren said to applause. “The part that changes is the money and where the money comes from.”
Beyond saying that the country needs to ask the top earners to “kick in a little more so we can afford health care for everybody,” Warren did not expand upon her proposal or mention Medicare, instead taking questions on immigration, jobs moving overseas and other issues.
The Massachusetts senator is among two leading Democratic candidates, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, proposing a single-payer, government-run insurance system. Other candidates in the race, including former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have argued that a switch to a government-run system would force union members and others into an insurance plan they may not want. Buttigieg has made a point of citing by name the Culinary Union, a powerful political force in Nevada, as an example of a union that would have to give up its care under the plans.
Warren told reporters after the town hall that she thinks Culinary’s plan is “terrific” and a “model for the country,” but “how it is paid for is a different question.” She said she wants to “preserve their access” to their doctors, nurse practitioners and more without having an insurance company find a way to introduce deductibles and copays.
D. Taylor, a former Culinary Union president and current president of Unite Here, introduced Warren and made a point of telling the media from the stage that the country’s health care system has to change. He told the Associated Press later that he thinks health care needs to be expanded in the country, but said, “At the same time, I think if somebody has health care that they really like, I don’t think it’s a very smart idea saying they have to give that up.”
Taylor said he didn’t know if the government could provide the same kind of robust health care that union members already have through their private plans.
The 60,000-member Culinary Union is a mostly female, immigrant-majority group that’s prioritized immigration reform, workers’ issues and health care as its top priorities, including preserving its health plans that have no monthly premiums and no deductibles.
Warren’s event Monday night was part of a series of town halls the union plans to hold this week.
Tuesday morning, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is expected to appear before the union’s members, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the race last week, was the only other Democratic candidate this year to get a town hall with the union’s rank-and-file.
Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, has said the group has not yet decided if it will wade into the Democratic primary and endorse a candidate. If the union does and moves quickly enough, it could prove decisive in a crowded battle in late February for Nevada’s caucuses.