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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Only Option: Single Payer

We also have an unprecedented commitment from health care industry leaders, many of whom opposed health reform in the past. Monday, I met with some of these health care stakeholders, and they pledged to do their part to reduce the health care spending growth rate, saving more than two trillion dollars over the next ten years -- around $2,500 for each American family. Then on Tuesday, leaders from some of America's top companies came to the White House to showcase innovative ways to reduce health care costs by improving the health of their workers.

Now the House and Senate are beginning a critical debate that will determine the health of our nation's economy and its families. This process should be transparent and inclusive and its product must drive down costs, assure quality and affordable health care for everyone, and guarantee all of us a choice of doctors and plans. President Barack Obama (5-14-09)

The health-industrial complex – hospitals, insurers, nursing homes, the American Medical Association, etc. – have issued a rare, shared statement of commitment to health care “reform”. President Obama has hailed the industry’s pledge as a welcome move towards overcoming the wreckage left by a profit driven system that absorbs nearly one out of six dollars generated every year by the economy and leaves upwards of 50 million US citizens without even minimal coverage of health care expenses. This crass exploitation of health care needs has escalated without abatement since the Clinton-era “reforms” of the early nineteen nineties with cost increases far outpacing the rate of inflation. For the most part, the industry has relied upon its vast and bloated surplus to engage lobbyists and public relations experts to buy Congress and buffer an outraged public caught in the labyrinth of paper work, denials, and high co-pays.

So why has a heretofore callous industry suddenly decided to offer a “reform” proposal wrapped in patriotism and sacrifice?

The answer is quite simple: The single-payer health care movement.

Public disgust with the for-profit system has accelerated with the popularization of a system that removes the insurance industry – the most parasitic component of economic activity – from the health care equation. While the media, politicians, and the industry have ignored single-payer advocates, the movement has continued to gain traction, culminating in direct confrontations with Congressional leaders determined to marginalize the movement. The Baucus Eight – the health care professionals who defied the lockout and endured arrest to dramatize the single-payer cause – forced single-payer on to the national stage. They are the Cindy Sheehan’s of this movement, serving as a moral inspiration foe all of us. Their action has given a friendly media personality, Ed Shultz of MSNBC’s Ed Show, a “news-worthy” issue that meets the entertainment-centered focus of the mass media, while, no doubt, also boosting Shultz’s ratings.

With the hard won endorsement of 516 union organizations, including 39 state AFL-CIO affiliates, and the commitment of 75 House co-sponsors for HR676 (the House single-payer bill), profit free health care delivers a health care option too popular to ignore (

Nonetheless, the media and elected officials have opted to do so. Until the single-payer advocates forced a national television audience and a sheepish bunch of compromised Senators to take note, this marginalizing effort bore fruit.

Thanks to the boldness and determination of the single-payer movement, the health-care industry felt the heat and announced a “reform” proposal that promises to save $2 trillion over 10 years. One might find this a cynical, desperate response, especially since this same industry has fought tooth and nail every attempt at reform over the last half century. Moreover, the measures offered by the industry, though demonstrably ineffectual and unenforceable, have been available for decades. Without question, this is a transparently crude attempt to thwart the single-payer challenge and protect industry profits. So much for the patriotism posture trotted out as a motivation.

Shame on the Obama administration for celebrating this crass attempt to protect profitability over the health of nation!

Clearly there are lessons here for progressives caught between an honest desire for a humane, civilized health care system and an idealistic, but misplaced loyalty to the Democratic Party and its current articulate, but calculating leadership. The determined, relentless struggle of the single-payer movement has done far more to advance the cause of universal, affordable health care than the rhetorical flourishes and empty promises of a profit driven industry and its compliant servants. Single-payer advocacy is the way forward. No real solution to the health care crisis is possible without a full, fair consideration of the single-payer option.

Zoltan Zigedy


delc said...

Zoltan has nailed this one.Without an activist single payer movement,the insurance companies would have conceded nothing.Without the Baucus eight,the President would have never forced them to participate in this pony and dog show.Bold activism cannot relent until single payer is achieved.

Big_Ron said...

When people know single payer for what it is very simply (cutting out the parasitic middle man and funnelling the savings into actual health care so everyone can have access) they love it. However, education cannot happen without attention. The movement needs this desperately.

Eric Brooks said...

The single payer movement will be responsible for anything positive that comes out of the current national health care discussion. We need HR676 now. There is no reason to keep the private solution in the mix after it has already been proven by history to be unable to meet the health care needs of the people of the United States. Thanks for an excellent article.