Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sen. Max Baucus (D-HMO) Gives In: Will Meet With Single Payer Advocates

After he faced multiple protests for unilaterally declaring that single-payer universal healthcare -- meaning, an efficient, not-for-profit government insurance program like Medicare being used to cover everyone -- was "off the table" as far as healthcare legislation went, Senator Max Baucus has finally decided to meet with advocates of the single payer solution:

According to the Web site, Baucus will meet with Dr. David Himmelstein, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP); Dr. Marcia Angell, senior lecturer, Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine; Dr. Oliver Fein, associate dean, Cornell Weill Medical School and president of PNHP; Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association; and Geri Jenkins, president of California Nurses Association.

Angell said the group plans to urge Baucus to give serious consideration to Congress' two primary single-payer bills, S. 703, by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and H.R. 676, by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

"We will make a case that there should be full hearings on Sanders' bill, and we'll make the case that the (Congressional Budget Office) should cost-out the Sanders and Conyers bills," Angell said in an interview Monday. "We'll make the case that single-payer advocates should have a chance to meet with the president. We will argue for holding public hearings on health reform that include single payer witnesses."

This shows just how important activism is. If people weren't willing to risk arrest, barrage Baucus's office with phone calls, pillory him in the newspapers, and generally raise hell, we wouldn't be having this meeting. I doubt they'll actually consider him to allow single payer discussion with just this meeting -- all that HMO/health industry cash talks a lot louder than the single payer advocates can, for now -- but it's a genuine step in the right direction.