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Single Payer Activists to Congress: Defeat Democratic Health Bill

by Russell Mokhiber

The Democratic health care bill is a massive bailout of the private health insurance industry.

It is convoluted and complicated.

And it should be defeated.

That's the take of a number of leading single payer activists.

They will hold a press conference the day before Thanksgiving.

And call on Congress to defeat the more than 2,000 page bill.

Start from scratch.

And pass single payer, Medicare for all, national health insurance.

The press conference will be held in the Murrow Room at the National P ress Club in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 10 a.m.

The press conference is being organized by Single Payer Action.

Speakers include:

  • Russell Mokhiber, Single Payer Action.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers, Physicians for a National Health Program.
  • Kevin Zeese, Prosperity Agenda.
  • Dr. Carol Paris, Physicians for a National Health Program.

Mokhiber, Flowers, Zeese and Paris are four of the Baucus 8 - the eight protesters who were ordered arrested and charged with "disruption of Congress" by Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) in early May 2009 after they rose to ask Baucus why single payer was taken off the table by the Democrats.

Baucus had scheduled 41 health care experts to testify over three days of hearings of the Senate Finance Committee.

Not one of the 41 experts was an advocate for a single payer system.

This despite national polls showing a majority of Americans and a majority of doctors support a Canadian-style, Medicare-for-all single payer system.

On Wednesday, the Baucus Four will call on single payer supporters in the Congress - like Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) - and the 88 members of the House who are sponsors of HR 676 - the single payer bill - to stand with Congressmen Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Eric Massa (D-New York) - and vote against the pending legislation.

HR 676 is about 30 pages in length.

It's simple.

It covers everyone.

And it saves money.

Kucinich and Massa were the only single payer supporters in the House who voted last week against Obama and the Democratic leadership.

Kucinich called the Democratic bill "a bailout under a Blue Cross."

Massa said the bill would "enshrine in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry."

"The Obama health care legislation is a 2,000-page turkey," said Mokhiber. "It should be defeated and served up to the American people as an example of what happens when corporate lobbyists hijack Congress."

Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, earlier this month called on Congress to do nothing instead of passing the Democratic bill.

"Is the House bill better than nothing?" Angell asked. "I don't think so. It simply throws more money into a dysfunctional and unsustainable system, with only a few improvements at the edges, and it augments the central role of the investor-owned insurance industry. The danger is that as costs continue to rise and coverage becomes less comprehensive, people will conclude that we've tried health reform and it didn't work. But the real problem will be that we didn't really try it. I would rather see us do nothing now, and have a better chance of trying again later and then doing it right."

Healthcare-Now! - a coalition of labor unions and other single payer activists - adopted a resolution earlier this month at its national strategy conference in St. Louis - calling on Congress to defeat the legislation.

The Healthcare-Now! board is co-chaired by Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers Union, Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, Dr. Quintin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program, and Jim Winkler of the United Methodist Church.

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