Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Sixty Americans die every day from a lack of health insurance, are we going to get [single payer] done sooner or later?"

Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action and Corporate Crime Reporter and Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician and co-chair of the Maryland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, two of the many arrested at the most recent Senate healthcare hearing, joined Amy Goodman this morning to talk about why they think the Senate is refusing to allow single payer healthcare advocates a chance to speak. Mokhiber decried Congress's ties to the big HMO's:

AMY GOODMAN: Russell Mokhiber, talk about these actions. So the last week, there have been two Senate Finance Committee hearings, thirteen people arrested. As we just heard, Senator Baucus said, “I will meet with you.” He talked to the people in the audience as he was being interrupted, one after another.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Well, first of all, good morning, Amy, from corporate-occupied territory, Washington, DC, where the drug companies and the health insurance companies control every nook and cranny. You know, Senator Dick Durbin last week said that the banks own Congress. That, too, where Obama and the corporate Democrats are engaged in what Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, called “the futility of piecemeal tinkering.”
Everybody knows that single payer is going to be here sooner rather than later. The question is, are—sixty Americans die every day from a lack of health insurance, and are we going to get it done sooner rather than later?
So, the problem was that you have this lockdown on Capitol Hill, where the corporations, the health insurance industry is in control. Senator Baucus has had twenty-eight witnesses over the span of these two hearings, not one of which was a single-payer advocate.
And as Dr. Flowers said, the majority of Americans, majority of doctors support single payer. Get rid of the private health insurance industry. Save $400 billion in administrative costs and profits, use that money to insure everyone. You have a card, an Americare card, when you’re born, and you can go to any doctor, any hospital in the country. So this is what the American people want. Insiders say this is what we’re going to get, sooner or later. Why not just have it now?

It should be noted that there is a difference between a single-payer plan and the public option being toted. A single payer system would enroll everyone into Medicare, which would be the most efficient and cost-effective way to provide healthcare to all. Offering the public system as an option would not save nearly as much money, but it does have the potential to save some money in the short run and could eventually evolve into a single-payer plan if everyone decides to choose it -- which even many of the opponents of it say they will.

Personally, I think that a single payer healthcare system should be the long-term goal. John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich have a great bill before Congress that would move us immediately to one, but I think if that fails, offering a robust public option on a level playing field will eventually get us to single-payer. Therefore I think both routes should be pursued vigorously by those seeking to guarantee high-quality, affordable universal care. However, what I don't think is acceptable is arguing that we can guarantee universal healthcare through private insurance.