The Drive for Single Payer

After several weeks of protests at Senate hearings and health care events by single payer advocates (visit,
six physicians from Oregon, with 191 years of combined real-world
medical experience, are crossing the country in a 27-foot Winnebago
making stops in nearly 30 cities, to debate, educate and advance full
medicare for all. Everybody in, nobody out.

themselves "Mad as Hell Doctors," these physicians are already drawing
crowds and expect thousands to turn out at each city that they visit,
culminating in a large arrival demonstration in front of the White
House around October 1. (Visit

They have written President Obama asking for a meeting "to discuss the
future of health care as well as the moral, social, and fiscal
imperative of enacting a single-payer system for America at this moment
in our history."

The White House turned them down flat, not even leaving the door open
for reconsideration. Mr. Obama has met countless times with the CEOs of
large corporations, whose greed and callousness causes so much of this
crisis. Though he believes in single payer "if we started from
scratch," he has yet to meet with any single payer delegation.

The White House has shown that it lacks smarts. The formless, waffling
Obama health insurance proposal is being shattered by the Republican
cluster of Limbaugh-driven lies and the Blue Dog renegades in the
Democratic Party, who are busy cashing mounds of campaign checks from
the so-called health business. By ignoring and excluding the
majority-supported single payer approach, the White House stifles any
kind of insurance reform worthy of the name.

Publicized lies are translating into fears among people who should be supporting full medicare for all.
reports that "a notorious analysis of the House health care bill
contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false, and the rest are
mostly misleading. Only four are true. For example, false are claims
that the bill includes an order for end-of-life plans or health care
for illegal aliens or assertions that 'your health care will be

So wild are the falsehoods, fueled by runaway internet traffic, that
the Republican National Committee implied in a fundraising letter that
Democrats may structure the overhaul in a way to deny medical treatment
to Republicans!

As with war, truth is the first casualty when it comes to the health
care debate. The Democratically-controlled Congress, on its return
after Labor Day, needs a wide-ranging personal, evidence-based series
of public House and Senate hearings to again publicize the compelling
story of avoidable suffering, fraud, waste, egregious profiteering and
top executive self-enrichment - all subsidized by taxpayers.

Take the enormous and shocking information researched by Harvard
Professor Malcolm Sparrow-an applied mathematician whose knowledge of
health care billing schemes and regulatory deficiencies is without peer.

Mr. Sparrow is no arm-chair commentator. He has dug deeply into the
enormously comprehensive frauds on medicare and consumers. He has found
payments for medical services ordered by deceased doctors or huge
payments in treatments for deceased patients-many gone for years.

Highlighting the widespread fraud on medicare by criminal behavior, he
argues that these actions should be treated as "a crime problem" not
just a "claims-processing problem." Without criminal prosecutions,
there is no deterrent stopping this massive robbery.

How massive? Read these words in recent testimony by Professor Sparrow:

The units of measure for losses due to health care fraud
and abuse in this country are hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
We just don't know the first digit. It might be as low as one hundred
billion. More likely two or three. Possibly four or five. But whatever
that first digit is, it has eleven zeroes after it. These are
staggering sums of money to waste, and the task of controlling and
reducing these losses warrants a great deal of serious attention.

In the early 1990s, the Congressional Government Accounting Office
estimated that billing fraud accounts for 10% of health care spending
annually. That would be about $250 billion this year. In 1993, Attorney
General Janet Reno declared that health care fraud was the number two
crime problem, after violent crime in the country.

With someone as carefully authoritative as Malcolm Sparrow, the
Democrats can make this crime spree front and center during the health
care debate. People want to be assured that their health insurance
dollars are protected. Instead the "license to steal," which is the
title of Mr. Sparrow's groundbreaking book, continues. And the
Republicans continue to sidetrack priorities for action with seedy

It is a remarkable commentary on the state of the White House and
Congress that the Democrats appear befuddled in dealing with the kind
of coarse, cruel, fear-mongering that an FDR and Lyndon Johnson would
have overwhelmed and sent packing.

Meanwhile, join the "Care-A-Van" of roadtripping Oregon physicians and
their efforts to bring the message of health care for all to
Washington, DC.

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