Single Payer New York & Capital District PNHP Fall Conference

Universal health care advocates meeting in Albany on October 10th called for Congress to substitute a single payer Medicare for All approach for the various bills presently under consideration. The Albany Medical College chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program hosted the meeting.

House members will have an opportunity to do this when Cong. Weiner’s amendment of substitute HR 676 for various expansions of HR 3200, the principal health reform bill, is brought up for a vote within the next two weeks. House Speaker Pelosi has agreed to along the amendment to come up for a floor vote. Senator Sanders is expected to make a similar amendment in the Senate.

“Single-payer is on the table. We will see the first vote on single-payer legislation in the House and Senate this year.  We need the private insurance company death panels to stand aside and allow a Medicare for All system to do the work that only it can do – provide comprehensive, universal coverage with no financial barriers to care,” said Katie Robbins, Assistant Coordinator of Healthcare-Now.

The groups also want both Houses to include a provision to provide needed waivers to states that decide to move ahead on their own single payer state programs if Congress fails to enact such a national program. An amendment to do this by Cong. Kucinich successfully passed in a House committee before the August recess. A recent study done for New York State found that a single payer system would be the most cost effective away to provide health care to all New Yorkers, reducing projected overall health care spending by $20 billion annually by 2019.

“It is scandalous that Congress is refusing to provide everyone in the U.S. with access to the health care they need. It is scandalous that Congress wants to continue, indeed expand, the role of the for-profit insurance companies even though a single payer system would save in the reduced administrative costs of insurers and providers more than enough money to provide comprehensive health care to everyone. I call on physicians and patients to join together in demanding that Congress enact single-payer Medicare for All,” declared Paul Sorum, MD, a primary care provider and chair of the Capital District chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program

President Obama and many other Congress members admit that a single payer plan would be the best, most-cost effective solution for America. President Obama recently told the America public that if you wanted to actually provide health care to everyone, you would need a single payer system.

More than 100 groups and individuals – representing doctors, nurses, labor unions, faith groups and concerned individuals – attended a statewide meeting at Albany Medical College on Saturday to make plans to how to continue the struggle for single payer, even if Congress fails to adopt it this year.

“Now more than every we need a strong grassroots movement to speak up for a Single Payer plan and to point out the short comings of the proposed plans and why they will not fix our broken system – we need to mobilize people around the state and let our voices be heard for a Expanded Medicare for All plan,” said Rebecca Elgie, a retired school teacher who heads up the Tompkins County Health Care Task Force and a co-chair of Single Payer NY.

The group is lending its support to the recently launched campaign for civil disobedience protests targeting insurance companies. On September 29th in New York City, the Private Health Insurance Must  Go! Coalition helped launch a national campaign of “Patients Not Profit” sit-ins at insurance company offices to demand an end to a system that profits by denying people care. 17 people were arrested that day at protests at Aetna’s office. There will be a nationwide day of protest at insurance companies on October 15th.

The newly formed Mobilization for Health Care for All campaign points out that “Insurance companies are the real death panels in America. They make billions in profit and millions for their CEOs while millions of Americans have no health insurance and over 45,000 die every year because they can’t get the care they need. That’s more than 120 people every day. These insurance companies deny care to their members and the American people for profit. America deserves better, and that’s why we voted for change. But the insurance companies are spending millions to confuse and scare the public to keep us from ending their grip on our health and our money. “

Mike Keenan, President of the Troy Area Labor Council, told about the growing support for single payer among unions. The national AFL-CIO passed a resolution endorsing single payer at its recent national convention due to the groundswell support among unions groups and members.  Keenan reported the unanimously passed AFL-CIO resolution stated, “The experience of Medicare (and of nearly every other industrialized country) shows the most cost-effective and equitable way to provide quality health care is through a single-payer system. Our nation should provide a single high standard of comprehensive care for all.  The AFL-CIO reiterates its longstanding call for congressional leaders to unite behind such a plan. Whatever the outcome of the current debate over health care reform in the 111th Congress, the task of establishing health care as a human right, not a privilege, will still lay before us.”

“Health care reform has unfortunately become the latest example of crony capitalism, where big businesses use their campaign contribution to extract massive taxpayers subsidies from politicians while the needs of average Americans are neglected. While the insurance and drug companies will make out like bandits, tens of thousands of Americans will continue to be killed each year due to the failure of Congress to reform our health care system. This was not the type of change Americans voted for,” added Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network.

“While a robust public option would fall well short of the type of reforms they were looking for, the House Democrats have turned what was supposed to be the 800-pound guerilla into the 5 pound Chihuahua. While the public option may have started out as a good faith effort to drive to hold down costs, it has become a smokescreen, so puny that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined it would have no impact on costs or the number of uninsured,” added Dunlea. “Its time for the liberals to stand up and demand what they know needs to be done, namely to get insurance companies out of our health care system,” he added.

The advocates pointed out that the various health proposals being pushed by the Congressional Democrats would all leave at least 25 million Americans without health insurance according to the CBO. Far more Americans would be stuck spending thousands of dollars for adequate insurance, with many continuing to be forced into bankruptcy when confronted with a medical emergency. The proposals would also significantly increase the overall spending on health care. Private for-profit health insurance companies would see a major surge in their revenues and profits under the various proposals to mandate that every American has to buy insurance if they don’t get it from their employer or government. All the proposals maintain the enormous waste – $400 billion presently – for private insurance. Employment and its related problems would continue to the principal way to provide health insurance to individuals.