Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Top Ten Enemies of Single Payer

Russell Mokhiber

Most people, when they arrive in Washington, D.C., see it for what it is - a cesspool of corruption.

Two reasonable reactions to the cesspool.

One, run away screaming in fear.

Two, stay and fight back and bring to justice those who have corrupted our democracy.

Unfortunately, many choose a third way - stay and be transformed.

Instead of seeing a cesspool, they begin seeing a hot tub.

The result - profits and wealth for the corporate elite - death, disease and destruction for the American people.

Nowhere does this corrupt, calculating transformation do more damage than in the area of health care.

Outside the beltway cesspool/hot tub, the majority of doctors,
nurses, small businesses, health economists, and the majority of the
American people - according to recent polls - want a Canadian-style,
single payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and
hospital, national health insurance system.

Inside the beltway cesspool/hot tub, the corrupt elite will have none of it.

They won't even put single payer on the table for discussion.

Why not?

Because it will bring a harsh justice - the death penalty - to their
buddies in the multi-billion dollar private health insurance industry.

The will of the American people is being held up by a handful of
organizations and individuals who profit off the suffering of the

And the will of the American people will not be done until this criminal elite is confronted and defeated.

(Remember, virtually the entire industrialized world - save for us,
the U.S. - makes it a crime to allow for-profit health insurance
corporations to make money selling basic health insurance.)

Before we confront and defeat the inside the beltway cesspool/hot tub crowd, we must first know who they are.

To wit, we present the Top Ten Enemies of Single Payer (listed here in alphabetical order):

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). AARP, one
of DC's most powerful lobbying groups, has worked inside the beltway
for years to defeat single payer. Why? AARP makes about a quarter of
its money selling insurance through its affiliate, United Healthcare
Group, the nation's largest for-profit insurance company. AARP must
defeat single payer - which if enacted, would wipe out that revenue

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). The private health
insurance industry. Public enemy number one. The health insurance
corporations must die so that the American people can live. Of course,
facing the death penalty, AHIP is the most aggressive opponent to
single payer. No compromise with AHIP.

American Medical Association. With a shrinking base of
doctors (only 25 percent of doctors nationwide belong) - the AMA is the
most conservative of the doctors' organizations. I just returned from a
health care policy forum at the Center for American Progress. As usual,
not one of the panelists mentioned single payer. Only during the
question period did a self-identified patient/citizen ask the single
payer question. And a pit bull-like Nancy Nielsen, president of the
AMA, ripped into the questioner. "Sounds more like a statement than a
question," Nielsen said. "And clearly you have a point of view about
that. And I don't happen to share that point of view." Clearly she
doesn't. But just as clearly, the majority of doctors, probably even a
majority of doctors who belong to the AMA, support single payer.
Nielsen is in denial and must be defeated.

Barack Obama. He was for it when he was a state Senator in
Illinois. Now, ensconced in the corporate prison that is the White
House, he says single payer is off the table. To get off the list,
Obama needs to put single payer back on the table.

Business Roundtable. Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), was at a health care
forum a couple of years ago sponsored by the Business Roundtable. And
the moderator asked the audience - made up primarily of representatives
of big business - to indicate their preference of health care reforms.
And the majority came out in favor of single payer. Why then is the
Business Roundtable opposed? Himmelstein put it this way: "In private,
they support single payer, but they're also thinking - if you can take
away someone else's business - the insurance companies' business - you
can take away mine. Also, if workers go on strike, I want them to lose
their health insurance. And it's also a cultural thing - we don't do
that kind of thing in this country."

Families USA. A major inside the beltway liberal foundation
and long-time foe of single payer. It's chief executive, Ron Pollack,
was once an advocate for single payer. But no more. In November 1991,
Pollack was at a Washington hotel debating Yale University professor
Ted Marmor in front of then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Marmor was
making the argument for single payer. Pollack against. A November 1994
article in the Washington Monthly, co-authored by Marmor,
reported the result this way: "After the two advocates finished,
Clinton looked thoughtful, pointed to Marmor and said, ‘Ted, you win
the argument.' But gesturing to Pollack, Marmor recalls, the governor
quickly added, ‘But we're going to do what he says.' Even considering
the Canadian system, everyone in the room agreed, would prompt GOP
cries of ‘socialized medicine' - cries that the press would faithfully

Health Care for America Now. The largest coalition of
liberal groups promoting a choice between a public plan and private
insurance companies. "They are saying - we can't do single payer
because Americans don't want it," said Kip Sullivan of the Minnesota
chapter of PNHP. "That's based on junk research
conducted by Celinda Lake for the Herndon Alliance. It is bad enough to
say we can't do single payer because the insurance industry is too
powerful to beat. But it is just plain insidious to say we can't do
single payer because the American people don't want it. In fact,
polling data indicates that two-thirds of Americans support a single
payer system. And that level of support exists despite the fact that
there is little public discussion about it."

Kaiser Family Foundation. One of the most prestigious
liberal inside the beltway think tanks on health reform policy. Saul
Friedman is a reporter for Newsday. In February, Friedman wrote an article for Newsday
arguing that single payer is suffering from a conspiracy of silence.
And he says Kaiser is the most culpable of the co-conpsirators. Kaiser,
funded initially by insurance industry money, regularly keeps single
payer off the table, Friedman says. When single payer advocates
released a study in January asserting that Congressman John Conyers'
single payer bill (HR 676) could create 2.6 million new jobs and would
cost far less than the private insurance currently paid for by
individuals and employers, "the Kaiser Family Foundation's daily online
report on health care developments at didn't mention it,"
Friedman reported. "Nor has Kaiser, the most comprehensive online
source of health care information, made any mention of single-payer or
the Conyers bill since it was introduced in 2003, despite widespread
support for such a plan according to Kaiser's own polls." After a
number of insistent inquiries, Kaiser told Friedman that they would
publish charts in March comparing the Stark and Conyers bills. They
never did.

The Lewin Group. The go-to consulting firm for health
reform studies. The most recent study, released last week and widely
quoted in the press, of the public plan option, showed that the
insurance industry would lose 32 million policy holders if a public
plan is enacted. Lewin's health reform policy guru, John Sheils, told
the Associated Press: "The private insurance industry might just fizzle
out altogether." What the mainstream press didn't report was that The
Lewin Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ingenix, which is in turn
owned by UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest health insurance
corporation. Lewin Group has conducted studies on single payer at the
state level - and their studies consistently show that single payer is
the most efficient cost saving system. But Lewin Group has never done a
study on HR 676 - which would create a single payer for the entire
country and drive The Lewin Group's parent - UnitedHealth Group- out of
business. When asked why Lewin Group never has done a study on HR 676,
Sheils said - "the President didn't propose single payer, did he?" No,
he didn't. That's why he too is on this list. (Sheils says The Lewin
Group has studied national single payer. He points to a recent
comparison of the different health reform proposals floating on Capitol
Hill - including one by Congressman Pete Stark (D-California). Stark's
bill would give every American the option of opting into Medicare. But
that's not single payer, because it keeps the private insurance
industry in the game. Sheils counters that he modeled the Stark bill as
single-payer. "The employer coverage option under the Stark bill is
made so unfavorable that no employer would do it. We have everyone in
Medicare, with the resulting savings." Sheils says that of all the
plans studied, the Stark bill saves the most money.)

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America (PHRMA).
PHRMA chief executive Billy Tauzin says that under single payer, the
government would become a "price fixer." By which he means, the
government, as a single payer, will have the power to negotiate drug
prices downward, thus costing the drug corporations millions in excess
profits. In recent years, PHRMA has infiltrated liberal sounding groups
like America's Agenda - Health Care for All. PHRMA's Vice President for
Government Affairs and Law, Jan Faiks, now sits on the board of
America's Agenda and PHRMA contributes money to the group - which has
worked in recent years to undermine single payer at the state level.
(America's Agenda Mark Blum won't say how much money PHRMA gives to his

We have met the enemy.

And they ain't us.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Russell Mokhiber

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter.  He is also founder of, and editor of the website Morgan County USA.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Medicare for All Advocates Take to the Streets of Over 50 US Cities

"How can we have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when we live in constant fear of illness, bankruptcy, or homelessness because of the outrageous for-profit healthcare system?"

Jessica Corbett ·

Thousands Join Budapest Pride Parade to Protest Attacks on LGBTQ+ Hungarians

"A lot has happened over the last few years, and it's time to show that we're not okay with it," said one of the organizers.

Jessica Corbett ·

US Lawmakers Demand $34 Billion for Global Vaccine Equity Funding in Reconciliation Package

"No investment in the fight against Covid-19 is more urgent and cost-effective now than an investment in getting the world vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Jessica Corbett ·

Ilhan Omar Demands Answers After First Somalia Airstrike of Biden Era

"It is critical that we realize we are not going to simply drone the al-Shabaab problem to death," the Somali-American congresswoman asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Huge Legal Win': Court Stops Police From Blockading Line 3 Protester Camp

One attorney described the blockade as "an outrageous abuse of law enforcement authority serving the interests of the Enbridge corporation against its environmental opponents."

Kenny Stancil ·