WASHINGTON - March 4 - The Obama administration's plans to hold a "Health
Care Summit" that excludes advocates of single-payer healthcare reform
has drawn a sharp response from labor leaders around the country.
"President Obama has indicated that his
administration is committed to the passage of a new 'universal'
national health care program for all Americans, and he wants it done
this year. For working people, and particularly the 48 million
Americans currently without health insurance, this is welcome news. We
also applaud the President's efforts to provide immediate relief to the
growing number of unemployed workers faced with the loss of their
health insurance," said Mark Dudzic, National Coordinator of the Labor
Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare.
"At the same time," he continued, "we are deeply
concerned by the apparent failure of the administration to include a
single supporter of HR 676 among the 120 invited participants to
Thursday's Health Care Reform Summit. We are calling on our supporters
to call and write the White House and demand that our voice be heard."
HR 676, the "Expanded and Improved Medicare for All"
Act, was re-introduced this year by Congressman John Conyers. It
currently has 59 congressional co-sponsors. Because it eliminates the
private insurance industry from profiting from people's misfortunes
and, like Medicare, establishes the federal government as the "single
payer" of everyone's medical bills, HR 676 can provide healthcare for
all with no co-pays or deductibles in a fiscally prudent manner. HR 676
has the endorsement of hundreds of state and local labor federations
and local unions as well as many other civic and religious
"The first step is to ensure that HR 676 has a 'seat
at the table' in the upcoming healthcare reform debates," said South
Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt. "It needs to be given the same
degree of attention as all other credible proposals for reform and
subjected to a side-by-side 'facts based' analysis with those
Leaders of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer are
urging President Obama to consider alternatives which, like Medicare,
would not rely on private, for-profit insurance companies to ration
health care to the American people. "Proposals which funnel our
precious healthcare dollars into the pockets of the for-profit
insurance industry and other special interests will do nothing to
contain and control costs or improve the quality of care," said
Fernando Gapasin, President of the West Central Oregon Central Labor
Labor leaders from Massachusetts are particularly
concerned that their state's law requiring all individuals to purchase
private health insurance is being touted as a model for the nation.
"Last month 40 of my fellow union leaders wrote to
President Obama to urge him to reject a Massachusetts-style plan that
would leave private insurance companies at the center of the system
through an individual mandate and expensive public subsidies supported
by taxes for plans that still don't provide enough coverage. The
Massachusetts plan is widely recognized as unsustainable and now that
we are facing an economic crisis, it is even more problematic." said
Peter Knowlton, president of the Northeast Region of the United
Electrical Workers Union (UE).
"If anyone should be excluded from this summit," said
Ray Stever, New Jersey State Industrial Union Council President, "it
should be the representatives of the health insurance industry. These
are the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. They will
move heaven and earth to continue to deny Americans the healthcare
justice that citizens of all other industrialized countries enjoy."
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare joins
other single payer advocates and organizations who are demanding that
their views be represented in the growing debate over health care
reform. These include the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed
Healthcare, Healthcare-NOW, the All Unions Committee for Single Payer,
the Physicians for a National Health Program and the California Nurses
Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee whose Co-president,
Geri Jenkins, RN, recently warned, "Any reform premised on expanding
the insurance-based system will likely fail, frustrate the public
desire for a real solution to our healthcare crisis, and undermine the
political capital the administration has earned for reform."
"That is why it is so important to speak up at this
moment," said Clyde Rivers of the California School Employees
Association. "The stakes are too high to allow special interests to
hijack a discussion whose outcome will so importantly affect the lives
and livelihoods of the American people. We call on President Obama and
the leaders of both houses of Congress to give HR 676 the fair and open
hearing that it deserves."