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

June 3, 2009


After Downing Street - Senator Max Baucus met with advocates for single-payer healthcare, including Senator Bernie Sanders, and told them that he might drop criminal charges against 13 people arrested for speaking up in his hearings, but that he would not include any supporters of single-payer health coverage in any future hearings. According to one report, Baucus suggested that he'd been mistaken to exclude single-payer but asserted that the process of creating healthcare reform legislation was too far along now to correct that omission.

Senator Sanders said after the meeting that if healthcare reform did not create a single-payer system it shouldn't be done at all, and that within three or four years we would realize we'd solved nothing. He said that it would be better to increase funding for community health centers and take steps to make it easier for medical students to go into primary care, than to enact major reforms that didn't go to the root of the problem.

Sanders has a bill that makes some of the changes he advocates, as well as a bill to facilitate the creation by states of single-payer healthcare systems. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin has introduced resolutions on the same topic in the House. . .

Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association - National Nurses Organizing Committee and national vice president of the AFL-CIO, said the fight for single-payer is a civil rights movement, and that people "have to turn up the heat." When someone questions the political viability of single payer, she said, we should question "allowing people to die and suffer for lack of political will.". . .

Dr. Oliver Fein, president of :Physicians for a National Healthcare Plan and associate dean at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, said that he and his colleagues had asked Baucus for a full hearing on the merits of single payer and asked for the Congressional Budget Office to create a comparison of single payer with whatever plan Congress produces that is not single payer. Senator Sanders said that he would continue to push Baucus to hold a hearing.

Dr. Flowers said that in her analysis the single-payer movement is largely inclined to go in the direction that Sanders stated on Wednesday: support for a single-payer bill or nothing. I asked her whether she believed that those pushing for single payer would ever support a public option as doing more good than harm and whether she thought those pushing for a public option would ever advocate allowing states to enact single payer. Flowers acknowledged that there are many (perhaps even most) people in the public option movement who prefer single payer. In fact, it is difficult to find a supporter of the public option who does not claim to "personally" want single payer but to find it "politically unfeasible." But Flowers said that PNHP does not support a public option and backs only single payer. And she said she was unaware of any advocates of a public option also advocating for allowing states to create single payer.

Seattle Times - The crowd was mostly Democratic, but that didn't stop them from shouting down Sen. Patty Murray's general remarks about the need for health-care reform with a more specific call for a single-payer health-insurance system.

Thousands joined a health-care rally and later a mellow, slow-moving parade in downtown Seattle, complete with belly dancers, drums, air horns, children, bicycles and lots of signs, both mass- produced and hand-drawn.

Many said they wanted a single-payer national health- insurance system - the type of insurance that's widely used in Europe and Canada.

Organizers put the crowd size at 3,500. Seattle police gave an estimate of 2,500 as of 1 p.m. - although the crowd seemed to grow as the day wore on.

More than 190 organizations endorsed the rally, including dozens of unions, women's organizations, health-care workers and churches.


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