WASHINGTON - Sen. Max Baucus met with advocates for single-payer health care in a
closed meeting on Wednesday and expressed regret that he had not
included them in the earlier negotiations for reform.
Health-care point man Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, took a statewide beating
last week for dismissing the possibility of a single-payer system early
in the debate -- leading to the meeting with health care professionals
and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is the sponsor of
the Senate's only single-payer bill.
"I don't like paraphrasing other people, I don't like being
paraphrased, but I think it's fair to say that what he said is that
when he said something to the effect that single-payer is off the
table, I think he regrets having said that," Sanders said following a
morning closed-door meeting with Baucus. "I think in retrospect he
thinks there probably should have been hearings, it should have been
part of the process, and then it would have been rejected."
Baucus is under pressure from the White House to get a health care
bill to the Senate floor quickly, saying according to those in the
meeting, that it is too late to include them and further hearings.
The Montana senator did, however, agree to use the power of his
office to fight for leniency on behalf of the dozen or so doctors and
nurses who had been arrested for demanding a single-payer program
during committee hearings on health care.
Sanders and the assembled single-payer advocates said they remain
committed to advancing a universal, government-run program, though
without Baucus that task is much tougher.
"I find it somewhat incomprehensible that if we are serious about
getting to health care reform, if we are serious about tackling the
outrageously high cost of health care, that we are not engaging in
serious discussion about a single-payer health care system," Sanders