Stop the Single Payer Shut-out! May 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: baucus eight, conyers, democracy, H.R. 676, health, health care, health care reform, health industry lobbyists, health insurance industry, health insurers, health reform, healthare reform, healthcare, healthcare reform, hmo, hmos, medicae, Nancy Pelosi, national health, quentin young, Ralph Nader, roger hollander, senate finance, senator baucus, single payer, single payer legislation
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Published on Saturday, May 9, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Among the giant taboos afflicting Congress these days is the proposal to create a single payer health insurance system (often called full Medicare for everyone).
How can this be? Don’t the elected politicians represent the people? Don’t they always have their finger to the wind?
Well, single payer is only supported by a majority of the American people, physicians and nurses. They like the idea of public funding and private delivery. They like the free choice of doctors and hospitals that many are now denied by the HMOs.
There are also great administrative efficiencies when single player displaces the health insurance industry with its claims-denying, benefit-restricting, bureaucratically-heavy profiteering. According to leading researchers in this area, Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, single payer will save $350 billion annually.
Yet, on Capitol Hill and at the White House there are no meetings, briefings, hearings, and consultations about kinds of health care reforms that reform the basic price inflation, indifference to prevention, and discrimination of health insurers.
There is no place at the table for single payer advocates in the view of the Congressional leaders who set the agenda and muzzle dissenters.
Last month at a breakfast meeting with reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to a question about health care with these revealing and exasperating words: “Over and over again, we hear single payer, single payer, single payer. Well, it’s not going to be a single payer.”
Thus spake Speaker Pelosi, the Representative from Aetna? Never mind that 75 members of her party have signed onto H.R. 676-the Conyers single payer legislation. Never mind that in her San Francisco district, probably three out of four people want single payer. And never mind that over 20,000 people die every year, according to the Institute of Medicine, because they cannot afford health insurance.
What is more remarkable is that many more than the 75 members of the House privately believe single payer is the best option. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, and Nancy Pelosi are among them. But they all say, single payer “is not practical” so it’s off the table.
What gives here? The Democrats have the procedures to pass any kind of health reform this year, including single payer. President Obama could sign it into law.
But “it’s not practical” because these politicians fear the insurance and pharmaceutical industries-and seek their campaign contributions-more than they fear the American people. It comes down to the corporations, who have no votes, are organized to the teeth and the people are not.
So, when Senator Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a large recipient of health insurance and drug company donations, held a public roundtable discussion on May 5, fifteen witnesses were preparing to deliver their statements. Not one of them was championing single payer.
As Senator Baucus started his introductory remarks, something happened. One by one, eight people in the audience, most of them physicians and lawyers, stood up to politely but insistently protest the absence of a single payer presentation.
One by one, the police came, took them out of the hearing room, arrested and handcuffed them. The charge was “disruption of Congress”-a misdemeanor.
They call themselves the “Baucus Eight”. Immediately, over the internet and on C-Span, public radio, and the Associated Press, the news spread around the country. You can see the video on singlepayeraction.org.
To the many groups and individuals who have labored for single payer for decades, the Baucus Eight’s protest seemed like an epiphany.
Dr. Quentin Young, a veteran leader for single payer and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) e-mailed his reaction: “For our part, when the history of this period is written, we believe your action may well be noted as the turning point from a painful, defensive position to a more appropriate offensive position vis-à-vis Senator Baucus and his health industry co-conspirators.”
Webster’s dictionary defines “taboo” as “a prohibition against touching, saying, or doing something for fear of a mysterious superhuman force.” For both Democrats and Republicans in Congress it is a fear of a very omnipresent supercorporate force.
However, moral and evidential courage is coming. On May 12, 2009, Senator Baucus is having another roundtable discussion with thirteen more witnesses, including those from the business lobbies and their consultants. Word has it that the Senator is about to invite a leading single payer advocate to sit at the table.
Here come the people! Join this historic drive to have our country join the community of western, and some third-world, nations by adopting a state of the art single payer system.
Visit singlepayeraction.org and break the taboo in your region.
Sanders Puts Single-Payer On the Agenda March 31, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: america health security act, bernie sanders, community health, community health centers, health, health care, health care reform, health insurance industry, healthcare reform, house judiciary, hr676, jim mcdermott, John Conyers, john nichols, national health care, national healthcare, obama administration, paul wellstone, private health insurance, quentin young, roger hollander, single payer
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Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 by The Nation
While the one reform that could cure what ails America’s health care system has attracted plenty of adherents in the House — 72 members have signed on as backers of House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers’ single-payer proposal and others back a plan introduced by Washington Democrat Jim McDermott’s legislation — there has not been a Senate proposal to rally around.
That’s what makes Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed “American Health Security Act of 2009″ such an important piece of legislation. In addition to being the first single-payer bill introduced in the Senate since the mid-1990s — when the late Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, sponsored a bill similar to the plan now being advanced by Sanders — it raises the profile of the doctors, nurses, patients and other campaigners who are trying to tell the Obama administration and its congressional allies that the legislative compromises they entertain are doomed to fail.
Under the American Health Security Act of 2009:
· Patients could seek care from the doctor or hospital of their choice.
- The new national health care program would be paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes amounting to less than what people now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.
· Funding would come from the federal government, but the program would be administered by the states.
- The high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry would be eliminated, along with the burdensome paperwork imposed on physicians and other providers. As a result, the plan would save at least $400 billion annually – enough money to provide comprehensive, quality care to all.
- Community health centers would be fully funded, giving the 60 million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to care.
- To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and dentists, resources for the National Health Service Corps to train an additional 24,000 health professionals would be provided.
The Sanders bill stands in stark contrast to the proposals being considered by the Obama administration and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, which would establish a new public-versus-private hybrid to try and address dysfunctions in the current public-versus-private hybrid that has left more than 45 million Americans uninsured and at least that many Americans underinsured.
“This is excellent news,” says Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. “There is now a way for the Senate to help us exit the nightmare of a collapsing health care system. If this bill is enacted, we no longer have to put up with the outrageous costs that prevent millions of Americans from receiving medical care and medications. Nor will tens of thousands have to declare bankruptcy over medical bills. In the face of our present economic calamity, this is an urgent necessity.”
Recalling that “President Obama once acknowledged that single-payer national health insurance was the best way to go,” Young added, “We are confident that Senator Sanders’ bill will accelerate the national drive for the only reform that we know will work.”
Let’s hope the doctor’s diagnosis is right.
Put Single-Payer on the Table March 11, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: amy goodman, big pharma, black caucus, denis moynihan, geri jenkins, H.R. 676, health, health care, health care reform, health insurance industry, health insurance plans, health summit, health-care summit, health-insurance providers, healthcare, healthcare reform, healthcare summit, joe stiglitz, marcia angell, max baucus, National Health Program, Obama, private health insurance, quentin young, reform advocates, rep. conyers, single payer, single payer action
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Published on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 by TruthDig.com
Congress is considering H.R. 676, “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All,” sponsored by John Conyers, D-Mich., with 64 co-sponsors. Yet even when Rep. Conyers directly asked Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting if he could attend the White House health-care summit, he was not immediately invited. Nor was any other advocate for single-payer health care.
Conyers had asked to bring Dr. Marcia Angell, the first woman editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious medical journal in the country, and Dr. Quentin Young. Young is perhaps the most well-known single-payer advocate in America. He was Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctor when King lived in Chicago. “My 15-minute house calls would stretch into three hours,” he told me.
But he came to know Barack Obama even better. Though his medical partner was Obama’s doctor, Young was his neighbor, friend and ally for decades. “Obama supported single-payer, gave speeches for it,” he said.
This past weekend, hundreds turned out to honor the 85-year-old Young, including the Illinois governor and three members of Congress, but the White House’s response to Conyers’ request that Young be included in the summit? A resounding no. Perhaps because Obama personally knows how persuasive and committed Young is.
After much outcry, Conyers was invited. Activist groups like Physicians for a National Health Program (pnhp.org) expressed outrage that no other single-payer advocate was to be among the 120 people at the summit. Finally, the White House relented and invited Dr. Oliver Fein, president of PNHP. Two people out of 120.
Locked out of the debate, silenced by the media, single-payer advocates are taking action. Russell Mokhiber, who writes and edits the Corporate Crime Reporter, has decided that the time has come to directly confront the problem of our broken health-care system. He’s going to the national meeting of the American Health Insurance Plans and is joining others in burning their health-insurance bills outside in protest. Mokhiber told me, “The insurance companies have no place in the health care of American people. How are we going to beat these people? We have to start the direct confrontation.” Launching a new organization, Single Payer Action (singlepayeraction.org), Mokhiber and others promise to take the issue to the insurance industry executives, the lobbyists and the members of Congress directly, in Washington, D.C., and their home district offices.
Critical mass is building behind a single-payer system. From Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz, who told me, “I’ve reluctantly come to the view that it’s the only alternative,” to health-care providers themselves, who witness and endure the system’s failure firsthand. Geri Jenkins of the newly formed, 150,000-nurses-strong United American Nurses-National Nurses Organizing Committee (nnoc.net) said: “It is the only health-care-reform proposal that can work. … We are currently pushing to have a genuine, honest policy debate, because we’ll win … the health insurers will collapse under the weight of their own irrelevance.”
Dr. Young has now been invited to a Senate meeting along with the “usual suspects”: health-insurance providers, Big Pharma and health-care-reform advocates. I asked Young what he thought of the refrain coming from the White House, as well as from the leading senator on the issue, Max Baucus, that “single-payer is off the table.” “It’s repulsive,” sighed Young. “We are very angry.” But not discouraged. I asked him what he thought about Burn Your Health Insurance Bill Day. “Things are heating up.” he chuckled. “When things are happening that you have nothing to do with, you know it’s a movement.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.