Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on MSNBC's Morning Joe

January 8, 2019

Mayor Bill de Blasio: From my shoulders, you can see Rhode Island.

Willie Geist: A Simpsons appearance. A Simpsons appearance by one of the New York City’s biggest Simpsons fans – a man who admits that his rule of thumb in life, at least politically is, if Mayor Quimby likes it I don’t. Joining us now, the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. How big was that for you?

Mayor: I was like – that’s pretty much the high point of my life.

Geist: Right, where do you go from there is the real question –

Mayor: It’s the pinnacle. But Mayor Quimby – just want to say to all the elected officials out there, I’m going to look at them right now – do not be like Mayor Quimby, okay. You’ve got your negative role model. Just avoid anything he would do, okay.

Geist: Why the ugly partisan attack on Mayor Quimby?

Mayor: Well, apparently, he’s a fellow Democrat. So, I think this is quite bipartisan. I don’t care what party you’re in – don’t be like Mayor Quimby.

Geist:  well, congratulations, Mr. Mayor. You have arrived, you’ve made it.

Mayor: Thank you, Willie.

Geist: Let’s talk –

Joe Scarborough: Willie, how can he trash Mayor Quimby. I mean Quimby is one of the great leaders of our time. I mean the next thing he’s going to be doing is trashing the legal skills of Lionel Hutz, Attorney at Law. 

[Laughter]

Geist: He wouldn’t dare.

Scarborough: Which by the way, Mr. Mayor, the ethics rule of this state prevent me from promising you a big cash settlement but just between you and me, I promise you a big cash settlement. 

[Laughter]

[Inaudible] character, as good as it gets. So, that was – you got a line out of it though.

Mayor: Yeah, Joe, I’m very impressed to see you know the full cannon of the Simpsons’ work. Very erudite of you.

Scarborough: Well, not only the old ones but also the new ones. My son, Jack, is a massive Simpsons fan. So, it really is shocking that here we are – what how many years, 30 years later – they just keep going. You know, we’ll jump from seeing something in season four for the 15th time to you know going to the 29th or 30th season. It’s going to – now, they’ve finally arrived, you got you here.

So we can keep talking about the Simpsons obviously all day but let’s instead break some news here and you are about to do something pretty remarkable in New York City, why don’t you tell us about it?

Mayor: Yeah, Joe, this has never been done before in this country, in this kind of comprehensive way, it’s going to be for the first time a guarantee of health care. We’re going to guarantee health care for New Yorkers who need it. And we have now, in New York City, something that we can build on. We have a public option that we’re ready to make much bigger, a public health insurance option that can reach the hundreds of thousands that are right now not in any kind of health insurance. We also have a way to provide direct health care to a lot of neighbors who happen to be undocumented – they’re still part of our community, they need health care, their families need health care.

We recognized that obviously health care is not just in theory a right, we have to make it in practice a right and we’re doing something about that here in this city. And, you know, the national reality – I don’t have to say that the Republicans in Washington have been trying to tear down health care, trying to tear down the universality of health care coverage, get rid of Obamacare. We’re doing the opposite. We want to increase the amount of health care that people can reach. We want people to have primary care, we want them to have specialty care, maternity care, mental health services, pediatrics, OBGYN. This plan will give all of that directly to –

Mika Brzezinski: Amazing. 

Mayor: – the people who don’t have it in the city, it’s called NYC Care and it’s going to revolutionize the approach because you know what people are doing now Joe, they’re going to the emergency room. That is the default health care provider for so many people in this country. It is the worst way to get health care. It’s the most expensive way to get health care.

Scarborough: Well – and Mr. Mayor, as a fiscal conservative, as a guy who got into public office to balance budgets, as I’ve been trying to tell my conservative friends for years, that if you think you’re denying people health care, you’re not. You’re just driving single moms and their children to the emergency room at 11:30 pm at night. It’s not only inhumane, but fiscally it’s stupid because that is expensive, it’s unproductive, and it’s the worst way to manage costs in a health care system. 

Mayor: Exactly. We’re already paying an exorbitant amount to provide health care the wrong way and to wait until people are really sick, you know, to wait until kids, to wait until seniors are really sick and end up in that emergency room when what we should be doing is helping them get the primary care. This plan will literally say, here’s a primary care doctor, here’s a person you can see is now going to be your doctor on a regular basis, and if you need something else, especially service, here’s how you get it. We’re going to make sure it’s seamless because that way people actually are encouraged to get the health care they need and never get to the point where they end up in the emergency room.

Geist: So the need here, Mr. Mayor, as I understand it, is there are about 600,000 New Yorkers who weren’t caught even by the Affordable Care Act.

Mayor: Correct.

Geist: They either could not or were not eligible to enroll in that program. So what does this do for them? What can – they get sick and now what happens? How do they pay for it?

Mayor: Well let’s talk – I’m going to explain that, but first, that 600,000 – a lot of them are what they call “the young invincibles”, and you know what that’s all about, Willie. The young folks, some of them are working class, some of them are even middle class, who think they don’t need insurance, and then, God forbid, they get sick and they find out that they really have a problem. We’re going to reach out to a lot of them and say here is an easy way to get health care that we can plug you into. Other folks literally just can’t afford the plans that are on the exchange right now and as I said there’s also folks who are undocumented who can’t access the exchange. About 600,000 people, we got another eight million people who, thank God, do have some form of insurance. 

This is one universal way to reach all those folks right now who are not covered and it’s straightforward, we say, become a part of this plan, you get a doctor, again, primary doctor, all those specialty services, you know where to go to get the help you need. If you can – if you are some of the younger people who could afford insurance but haven’t done it by now, here is going to be an easy affordable way to do it. If you’re someone who can’t afford it, we’re going to make sure health care is available. It’s a sliding scale, people will pay what they can, but the difference here is with NYC Care is you know it’s universal. You know, we were talking before about universal pre-K which is something we now have in the city, what parents have said to me is once they knew that pre-K was absolutely going to be there for their kids, they planned their life around it, it changed the way they thought about things, it made life easier, less stressful. Here’s a way for everyone to know that health care is going to be there for you. 

Geist: So the estimates are this will cost at least $100 million per year, at full scale, you can hear the critics saying why am I paying for this “young invicibles” who don’t want to buy insurance. Why am I paying for undocumented immigrants at a tab of $100 million, what do you say to them?

Mayor: Well I say the famous phrase, you can pay me now or you can pay me later. Just the point that Joe made before, if we don’t help people get the health care, we’re going to pay plenty on the backend when people get really sick. We’re going to have a lot people going to work sick and making everyone else sick. It’s – we want a healthy society in every sense and here is way to invest upfront to get it right. Imagine a society where everyone knows they have a doctor they can get to. I mean, right now a lot of people don’t go the doctor because they don’t know where to turn or because they literally don’t have enough in their pocket to handle it. We want people to get health care when they need health care. To me, that is the moral choice and to me that ultimately is one that is a smart economic choice too because we’re not doing the crazy thing which is making the emergency room the first place people go for health care.

Geist: So how – do you have to raise taxes to get this up off the ground?

Mayor: No, this is something we’re going to pay for through our public health care system because we’re making it a priority. We’ll put the money in to make it work, it’s going to save us money down the line because we’re not going to have as many emergency room visits, it’s going to save us money because we’re going to see people get healthier overall, there’s no question. Look if folks get primary care, or I’ll use mental health as an example as well, my wife has led an initiative called Thrive NYC to make mental health care universally available. If people get mental health services when they need them, at the right point in life, that means you avoid everything from, God forbid, homelessness or incarceration or people losing their jobs. There are immense savings humanly and economically to getting it right. 

Geist: Really quickly, before we go, a lot of New Yorkers watching this show, how do they get access to this, website – how –

Mayor: They’re going to be able to go on the New York City website or call 3-1-1 which is our broad service number for New York City government. It’s going to be up and running this year, it will build out over the next few years, NYC Care, but it’s literally going to be a phone call away or click away for people to sign up.

Geist: All right Simpsons star, Bill de Blasio, also Mayor of New York –

Mayor: Finally Willie – 

Geist: That’s an afterthought. 

Mayor: That – I want that first title, Simpsons star, I feel – I feel really special –

Geist: You’ve worked for it, you’ve earned it. Mr. de Blasio, Mr. Mayor, thank you for being with us.

Mayor: Thank you, Willie. 

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