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July 30, 2014

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Reid says Obamacare just a step toward eventual single-payer system

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Christopher DeVargas

Sen. Harry Reid talks about the benefits offered to small business as a result of the health insurance reform, March 21, 2011

Harry Reid news conference - Nov. 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responds to a question during a news conference at Vdara Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Launch slideshow »

In just about seven weeks, people will be able to start buying Obamacare-approved insurance plans through the new health care exchanges.

But already, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is predicting those plans, and the whole system of distributing them, will eventually be moot.

Reid said he thinks the country has to “work our way past” insurance-based health care during a Friday night appearance on Vegas PBS’ program “Nevada Week in Review.”

“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid said.

When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”

The idea of introducing a single-payer national health care system to the United States, or even just a public option, sent lawmakers into a tizzy back in 2009, when Reid was negotiating the health care bill.

“We had a real good run at the public option … don’t think we didn’t have a tremendous number of people who wanted a single-payer system,” Reid said on the PBS program, recalling how then-Sen. Joe Lieberman’s opposition to the idea of a public option made them abandon the notion and start from scratch.

Eventually, Reid decided the public option was unworkable.

“We had to get a majority of votes,” Reid said. “In fact, we had to get a little extra in the Senate, we have to get 60.”

Reid cited the post-WWII auto industry labor negotiations that made employer-backed health insurance the norm, remarking that “we’ve never been able to work our way out of that” before predicting that Congress would someday end the insurance-based health care system.

Reid also had some strong words for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller concerning their ongoing dispute with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz over shipments of low-level nuclear waste from Oak Ridge, Tenn., to Nevada.

Sandoval disputes the existence of “many memos” that Moniz said were signed between state and federal officials, permitting the import of the spent fuel rods. Heller has asked Moniz to clarify the existence of the memos, which Moniz first referred to in testimony before the Senate Energy Committee on July 30.

Reid acknowledged that Moniz may have been mistaken about the memos but suggested that Sandoval and Heller were “flailing away” with their complaints, before establishing the facts, which Reid said he “just do(es)n’t think we have.”

“If there are these memos flying around then somebody should be able to find them someplace, but this is not the point,” Reid said. “Gov. Sandoval knows his powers are limited. This is interstate commerce … you can’t just say ‘we’re not going to take it.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

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