The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Michael Lighty, 510-772-8384 or Charles Idelson, 415-559-8991

RNs Praise House Vote to Permit State Single-Payer Laws


The nation's largest union and professional association of
registered nurses today hailed passage of a key amendment in the
House Education and Labor Committee to the national healthcare
reform bill this morning that would enable individual states to
go a step farther and adopt single-payer, Medicare-for-All style

Introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the amendment
would remove potential legal impediments for states to pass
single-payer bills by waiving federal exemptions that apply to
employer-sponsored health plans.

The amendment passed on a bi-partisan vote of 25-19, with the
support of both progressive, single-payer Democrats and many
Republicans who endorsed the ability of individual states to
pass their own versions of health care reform.

"This is a historic moment for patients, for American
families, and for the tens of thousands of nurses and other
single-payer activists from coast to coast who can now work in
state capitols to pass single-payer bills, the strongest, most
effective solution of all to our healthcare crisis," said Rose
Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses
Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

"There are many models of health care reform from which to
choose around the world - the vast majority of which
perform far better than ours. The one that has been the most
tested here and abroad is single-payer," said Kucinich in urging
passage of the amendment.

"Under a single-payer system everyone in the U.S. would get a
card that would allow access to any doctor at virtually any
hospital. Doctors and hospitals would continue to be privately
run, but the insurance payments would be in the public hands. By
getting rid of the for-profit insurance companies, we can save
$400 billion per year and provide coverage for all medically
necessary services for everyone in the U.S.," Kucinich said.

The nurses noted there is a long road ahead for the
amendment. It will still need approval from the full House and
in a final version from the Senate. Nurses and other healthcare
and community activists made numerous calls to legislators in
support of the amendment, and will continue to press for its
enactment in the final bill.

For those who have opposed the proposal, DeMoro called it "a
very modest amendment that simply protects choice for residents
of individual states who favor more comprehensive reform."

Recent reports from both the Department of Health and Human
Services and the prestigious medical journal Health
have documented that compared to people with
private insurance, Medicare enrollees have greater access to
care, fewer problems with medical bills, and greater
satisfaction with their health plans and the quality of care
they receive.

The reason for improved access, quality, and lower costs
under Medicare, said DeMoro, "is that under Medicare, insurance
companies, whose central focus is profits for their shareholders
not delivery of care, don't have the ability to deny care, limit
coverage, or continually raise prices that endanger the health
and financial security of patients."

"The successes and standards of Medicare should be the model
for reform for all Americans," said DeMoro. "If the final
national bill will not meet that test by establishing Medicare
for all, then let's give Americans the tools to pass it in
individual states."

Currently, if states were to pass single-payer laws, as
California, for one, has twice, only to have the bill vetoed by
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it could be subject to immediate
legal challenge due to the federal Employee Income Retirement
Security Act (ERISA) which applies to all employer-paid health
plans. The Kucinich amendment would provide an ERISA waiver.

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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