Says Liberals Need to Drop Public Option in Support of Single Payer

The Hunger Action Network of New York State said the expected vote this week on Cong. Weiner’s single payer amendment was the last chance for Congress to adopt a universal health care system.

“The United States needs to join the rest of the industrial world in making health care a right and improving the quality of our health care delivery system. In addition, we need to cut – not increase – the amount of money Americans spend on health care. A Medicare for All type program that eliminates the huge waste and barriers of our for-profit private health insurance system is the best way to do this, as President Obama has stated throughout his career,” stated Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network.

This summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a full house vote on a single payer Medicare for All proposal in exchange for Cong. Weiner agreeing not to raise the amendment during the Committee process. While Pelosi has wavered on her promise in recent weeks, other House leaders said at the end of last week they expected the vote to take place as promised.

Eighty-seven members of Congress – including ten from New York – have co-sponsored the single payer bill (HR 676) authored by Cong. Conyers.

Hunger Action Network also wants the House to re-instate the provision by Cong. Kucinich to allow states to adopt a single payer system if they so want. This amendment was added by committee vote to the various drafts of the House bill this summer, including the support of many Republicans who voted for it in the name of states’ rights.. The California State Legislature for instance has repeatedly passed a state single bill in recent years, only to have it vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who is term limited after this year. The State of New York recently completed a study that concluded that a single payer system would reduce spending on health care in New York by $20 billion annually by 2019.

“The Democrats all know that a single payer system is best for Americans – it’s just not good for the insurance companies. So they and their allies like HCAN proposed a robust public option as a compromise, a compromise that many of us felt was fatally designed since it left intact all the problems with private health insurance. That approach hasn’t worked; the public option has now become so weak that it is meaningless, covering an estimated 2% of the population. All it will do is give health care reform a bad name. It’s time for Congressional Democrats to put the health care needs of the American people and employers ahead of the profits and greed of the insurance companies and vote for what they know is best for the country,” added Dunlea.

A single payer system merely means that one program or entity pays all bills – like Medicare does. The elimination of the paperwork, marketing costs and profits of private health insurance would save an estimated $400 billion annually, which would then help pay to provide health care to those presently uninsured. Unlike the other Democratic proposals, including the public option, single payer is the only system that would cover all Americans – as President Obama recently admitted publicly. If everyone is actually covered, it then becomes fiscally prudent for the government to invest more in preventive care to keep everyone healthy. America’s present sick-care system is more expensive since it tries to treat people once they are sick.

The US spends about $7,200 annually per capita for health care, twice as much on average as other industrial countries. Close to 1/5 of the American economy is now devoted to paying for health care. High health care costs were a major factor for instance in the collapse of the American auto industry. The Democrats’ main health care plans actually manage to increase health care spending, especially for individuals.