Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 11, 2009


Ralph Nader, Counterpunch - 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 payer displaces the health insurance industry and 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 by 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.". . .

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 numbers and 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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if writing insurance policies caused cancer? I bet we'd see a whole different attitude . . .

May 12, 2009 1:36 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

Here in the Netherlands, and I believe in Switzerland as well, the system has a hybrid public-private character; the government determines coverage of the base health insurance policy, which is obligatory for everyone. The insurance itself is managed by private insurers, who compete on the basis of deductibles and restricted or unrestricted doctor-choice; they are of course prohibited from refusing coverage to anyone.

Nader argues for a single-payer system in the US because of far lower administrative costs, yet in certain countries, administrative costs are kept down without removing the private sector from the loop. It would appear that the way HMOs in the US are currently structured is particularly inefficient.

May 12, 2009 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In other words, it's off the table because wealthpower giants say it's off the table.

For as long as people are allowed to have overfortunes, those with most monomania for wealthpower will be busy making history be what they say it will be.

It's way past time to murder the idea to allow wealthpower giants, Humanity.

This is our human insane reality: two people do a fortnight's work, and we give one of them $1 and the other $50,000,000 (average, all his life) $1,000,000,000 (peak rates of pay). We give 99% of people less than the world average, we give 90% of people less than a 10th of average, so we can give 1% of people more than average, so we can give 1% of people up to a million times average.

We calmly sit by while a few rake most of the money out of the social pool of work/ wealth/ products of work. We look in the pool and we say: Isn't it sad that there is so little in the pool for most people, and we make no connection between this and the people pumping out most of the water in the pool with a fleet of siphon trucks...while each and every family earns makes creates US$200,000 a year of wealth/ products of work.

We know and believe that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer - we know that this has been going on for millennia - the few getting richer and richer and richer [and more and more powerful] for millennia, and most getting poorer and poorer and poorer (more enslaved) for those same millennia, and yet we don't know we are robbing *every one* of ourselves of everything.

The American dream of freedom from tyranny was founded on the prevention of unjust wealth concentration - and we don't know we have utterly neglected that path. The price of democracy is vigilance, and we do not even know we have been utterly unvigilant regarding the root and fount of democracy, freedom, and justice, peace, happiness, and survival.

May 12, 2009 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

Huey Pierce Long: "Share Our Wealth"

May 12, 2009 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Painting Tasters said...

yeah, i know when I need it, I’ll be happy it’s there
but I’d be happier if it were gone
the richest nation in the world is America
if you can’t pay, you don’t belong!


May 13, 2009 5:42 PM  
Blogger JJ said...

New Slogan for Baucus:
"Healthcare For Some!"

It's a deep mystery that it's not asked, by Nader or Conyers or any Good Guy...but a major question to ask the public is...

Do you really want to retain a health-care system that is administered by insurers that own multi-million dollar holdings in Cigarette Manufacturing, tobacco pesticides, Big Oil, Mountaintop Removal Mining, Pesticides in General, Nukes, Military Contractors (even Halliburton), plastics, genetically modified "foods", factory farms, etc....just about every health- and environmentally-damaging industry on Wall Street?...not to mention the sweat-shop firms, union-busting firms, AND businesses that may compete with your own business or your investment holdings?

Yes or No.

Though hardly discussed, this is all no secret...it's public info at the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database. A bit tricky to navigate but...it's there.

May 22, 2009 10:27 PM  

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