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Invited to Summit, Single-Payer Group Cancels Protest

Barack Obama isn’t likely enact a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health plan. The White House Web site promises that, under the president’s proposed health plan, “if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes…”

US President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of The White House in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2009. Obama warned Thursday that the United States would not rebuild its economy unless political leaders joined him immediately on a perilous political drive for healthcare reform. Originally excluded from the summit, single payer advocates declared a 'small victory' as two important members of the single payer leadership received invitations to the event. (AFP/File/Chris Kleponis) Still, a gesture can go a long way.

Physicians for a National Health Program, a group of docs that claims 15,000 members and supports a single-payer system, had planned to demonstrate outside the White House today over what they said was the exclusion of single-payer advocates from the White House’s health-reform summit.

But yesterday, PNHP canceled the protest — after the group’s president was invited to today’s meeting. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who backs a Medicare-for-All bill in Congress, was also invited.

A PNHP spokesman told the Health Blog the invitations are a “small but important victory.”

Of course, those are only two people out of the more than 100 on hand for the meeting. As this list of participants shows, the White House halls should be thick with members of Congress.

Also in attendance are leaders from the AMA and other medical specialty societies; trade groups for drug makers, insurance companies and hospitals; CEOs of companies including Pfizer and General Mills; advocacy groups such as the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association; and unions such as SEIU and the Teamsters.

We just watched Obama’s opening remarks, which sounded a lot like what he’s been saying recently about health reform. Namely, it’s essential to the country’s economic recovery and it won’t happen unless government leaders get support from a broad base of the public. “Health-care reform is no longer just a moral imperative — it’s a fiscal imperative,” he said.

We’ll have more from the meeting later. You can also watch it yourself at the newly launched healthreform.gov.

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