Labor Chief Slams Insurance Companies as "Death Panels"

ABC News' David Chalian Reports:

A top leader of the nation's labor movement upped the anti-health insurance company rhetoric coming from much of the left in the current health care reform debate.

"There was a lot of talk about death panels," AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer (and the organization's presumptive incoming president) Richard Trumka told us on ABC News' "Top Line." "Well there are death panels out there, they're called the insurance companies," he added.

Mr. Trumka has been a leading Democratic voice warning President Obama and his administration not to accept a health care reform bill without a public government-run health insurance option as a part of it.

He didn't back down from that position today and appeared unimpressed with the idea of a delayed public option that only gets triggered if the private health insurance companies are unable to significantly bring down costs and expand coverage once health care reform legislation becomes law.

"Well, Trigger was a great horse and I'm sure Dale and Roy really liked Trigger," joked Trumka. He went on to express concern about when such a triggered public option would take effect. "How far down the road? And what do we say to those people?," he asked. "Is it 10 years down the road? Is it 8 years down the road? What do we say to every American that declares bankruptcy every thirty seconds because of this?," he added.

The labor leader attempted to alter the terms of the health care debate we've seen play out across the country throughout August by keeping the focus on the current practices of health insurance companies in a less regulated marketplace. He cited an average of 32% of denied insurance claims from three of the largest health care providers in California over the last 7 years as an example.

"We need the public option to force them to become more efficient, more innovative and to break that stranglehold that they have on healthcare in this country," Trumka said of the insurance companies.

Mr. Trumka also weighed in on immigration reform. The labor community has proven reluctant to join many of its Democratic brethren in Congress in support of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that was eventually rejected in 2007.

"We have a panel out, it was headed by a former Secretary of Labor, that I think is a perfect thing. It makes sure that people are treated humanely, that employers can't exploit people that come into this country and it'll solve the problem. It takes care of my members but more importantly, it takes care of the problems for the country itself," said Trumka. Watch the entire interview with Richard Trumka HERE:

We also chatted with Politico's Jonathan Martin about what is behind the strategy shift at the White House and who makes up President Obama's target audience for his big speech next week. Check out the entire interview with Politico's Jonathan Martin HERE:

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