On the one-year anniversary of the health care law, MSNBC thought it fitting to bring on a boy who championed the bill and give him a platform. Anchor Andrea Mitchell hosted 12-year-old activist Marcelas Owens Wednesday and asked him questions with predictable answers to explain the case for the health care law.
Owens became famous last year for his public appearances to rally support for the health care overhaul. His mother had died of pulmonary hypertension in 2007 after she lost her job due to extended leave of absence. She was unqualified for Medicare or for health insurance. Owens used the tragedy to speak out in favor of universal health care.
Mitchell gave Owens a soft interview in what seemed a plug for the health care bill, given that she asked him to explain what could be done in the face of opposition "who don't understand the need for health care" and believe that "there isn't enough money" for universal health care. Of course, Republicans last year proposed health care reforms of their own but were largely ignored amidst the partisan Democratic push for the bill's passage.
"What do you think can be done, because a lot of people don't understand the need for health care," Mitchell asked, "and they say there isn't enough money to pay for everyone to have health care?"
Mitchell followed up that question by asking him tell what he thought everyone should know about health care, in the face of his mother's heartbreaking death.
"I want people to know that the health care bill is a good thing and it will help not only just a few people, it will help everybody" Owens predictably answered. Mitchell, satisfied with the answer, moved on by asking him if he received a pen used at the signing. When he told her he hadn't, she expressed dismay and remarked that "it's a shame you didn't have that."
Hopefully Mitchell granted the youngster an autographed piece of memorabilia after he left the set.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 23 at 1:36 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
ANDREA MITCHELL: One year ago today, President Obama signed the massive health care overhaul into law. One of the most visible and unlikely spokesmen to emerge from this heated debate was 12 years-old. Now 12 year-old Marcellus Owens stood beside the President as he signed the Affordable Care Act with Vice President Biden's hand firmly on his shoulder. His mother Tiffany had died of pulmonary hypertension in 2007 after losing her job and her health insurance, but did not qualify for Medicaid. Now Marcellus is determined to finish the work that his mother had started and become himself a grassroots activist, fighting to make sure that everyone has health coverage. Marcellus Owens joins us now, and Marcellus, I apologize, I said you were in fifth grade. You are a sixth-grader now, in the year that's passed, so thank you very much for joining us from Seattle. What is it that you're hoping to accomplish in your mother's name and on her behalf?
MARCELLUS OWENS: Can you repeat that?
MITCHELL: What is it that you're trying to accomplish for your mother? Your mother Tiffany tried so hard to fight for health care for other people. What do you want to do now?
OWENS: I want everybody to have something that my mom didn't have a chance to have – the equal rights to have health care and to get medicine or treatments that they need.
MITCHELL: What do you think can be done, because a lot of people don't understand the need for health care, and they say there isn't enough money to pay for everyone to have health care.
OWENS: I think that everybody needs it, and it really doesn't matter because it will benefit –
MITCHELL: Talk about what you went through. You watched your mother struggling, and she didn't have the money to pay. Now you're being taken care by your grandmother, who is helping take care of you and raising you. But why do you think that other people need to better understand? What is it you want people to know?
OWENS: I want people to know that the health care bill is a good thing and it will help not only just a few people, it will help everybody. And I just want them to know that.
MITCHELL: Well, I want to bring you back to a year ago, because what was it like to be at the White House with the President of the United States?
OWENS: It was amazing, because I was kind of shy and I was just admiring him because he is the first African-American President.
MITCHELL: It must have been really an awesome moment for you to be there watching the President taking all those pens. Did he give you a pen, Marcellus?
MITCHELL: Oh, we have to find out why that didn't happen. He gave – those pens are for members of Congress, I guess. It's a shame that you didn't have that. Did you – now in school, you're now in sixth grade. What are you studying, and what do you hope to do about health care, and about all these big issues as you grow up?
OWENS: Well, I'm starting to get back into school, and I was wanting to start to work on more things, and to start to make not just health care better, but everything a better place for the whole United States and more.
MITCHELL: And what's your favorite subject in school?
OWENS: Um, I have a few, like PE, math, and writing.
MITCHELL: Well, they're all important, and we hope that you have lots of success in school, and study hard, and continue working on the things you care about. And I know health care is the biggest thing right now that you care about.