Herman Cain, the NRA, and Bill Clinton on health reform…

The frontrunning GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has gotten a lot of attention today, and in the last week, for his alleged actions in the 1990s.

Perhaps this will also increase the scrutiny of Cain’s *official* actions as head of the National Restaurant Association during that time. The NRA (not the gun lobby but the trade association of fast-food and chain restaurants) was a big opponents of health reform back then, and through the years.

As Wendell Potter noted in a recent article, the NRA actively lobbied against the Clinton health reform effort, in alliance with the insurance industry. Cain came to prominence during this anti-health reform effort. His campaign even highlighted a dialogue with President Clinton during a town hall meeting, even though the most striking thing about the clip is how much lower health costs were back then–suggesting that the lack of reform hasn’t done any favors to restaurants or other workers.

The other notable fact is that back then, Godfather’s Pizza only provided 17% of his workers health coverage. And so his business model–and that of many fast-food and chain restaurants–is to let their workers go uninsured, or to fall onto publicly-financed insurance programs. It’s not surprising that any attempt to reform this system would face opposition from these businesses.

The restaurant association has also played that role here in California, as the lead opponent against SB2 in 2003 and Prop 72 in 2004, the California expansion of employer-based health coverage. Some employers were supportive, others were neutral, others (including the Chamber of Commerce) were opposed, but it was the California Restaurant Association that was the main financial backer of the referendum of that law–along with their members like McDonald’s, as well as Outback Steakhouse and other fast-food and chain restaurants.

In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association played that role again, leading the opposition politically the Healthy San Francisco plan, even as other employers and employer organizations stayed neutral or in support. They didn’t stop after the law was signed, becoming the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit to overturn the San Francisco ordinance, all the way to the Supreme Court–which they lost. They continue to

As the GOP politicians try to outdo themselves to position themselves as which one is more anti-health reform, having a presidential candidate from the NRA is a perfect distillation of that opposition. But is what is good for the Restaurant Association good for America?

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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