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December 17, 2009

By Donna Smith


Sickening. Saddening. Maddening. And the stuff of future determination in the political struggle for healthcare for all in the United States.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate today, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont rose to offer his single-payer, Medicare for All amendment No. 2837 and to begin debate. Then, one of the two Republican doctors in Senate, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, demanded a full reading of the 700-page amendment.

From the Senate gallery, I watched as Sen. Max Baucus told Sanders the only way to halt the Republican delay tactic would be to withdraw the amendment. Sanders stated emphatically to Baucus, “I will offer this amendment.” But both men left the chamber as the amendment reading went on.

The Republicans seemed to be pleased with the procedural maneuver. Periodically one of the Democratic leadership would walk over to Coburn and chat. He’d smile and lean on his stack of documents – everything being very well staged for the C-SPAN cameras.

I thought how cold and callous it all looked from the gallery – healthcare is not a laughing matter for millions of us. This crisis has killed thousands of our fellow citizens and bankrupted millions more. I fail to find any of that remotely funny or something over which any Senator ought to feel pride as he or she blocks progress towards a better healthcare system.

The words of the amendment were clear and clean. And though not many were there to actually listen, I couldn’t help but hear the details of the amendment and wish people could grasp the simple beauty of knowing each of us, all of us would have the care we need when we needed it at a lower cost. Instead, we’re going to have more of the mess we have now – more insurance company influence over our lives and our bodies, and in many cases at a higher cost.

Single-payer, amendment number 2837 sounded pretty good to me. I was more than willing to wait out the Republican mischief and the Democrats’ worry about not passing something – anything – before Christmas. I was more than willing to listen to every word.

After two hours of reading page after page of the amendment, Sanders stepped back up to his desk and withdrew the amendment. The reading stopped. And the fight for single-payer, Medicare for all died for this Congressional cycle.

Senator Sanders stood proudly and defiantly at the microphone and delivered the floor speech on behalf of single-payer. By then it was all over except for getting his intelligent remarks and his passion on the record. Those who care about where we need to go with this nation’s healthcare system should listen to Senator Sanders’ floor speech from today, December 16, 2009.

The fight will go on. As surely as the deaths attributable to a lack of access to healthcare in the United States will continue to mount and as surely as the number of bankruptcies directly related to medical crisis will also continue to rise, so too will the cry for real healthcare justice. This Congress and this President are not going to get to the place we needed them to go. They are not extending healthcare as a basic human right to all of us.

It makes me wish I had purchased a little health insurance stock along the way. Because as soon as Joe Lieberman made sure that he cleared out any chance of any public insurance expansion at all from this bill, the for-profit health insurance companies saw their stocks begin to rise again.

So, how do we get through this cycle? Will there be a conference committee effort to restore a state based single-payer amendment to health reform legislation? Or will we just watch as Congress passes some messy piece of something that isn’t likely to do very much at all to mitigate the healthcare crisis in this nation just to claim they did something?

And what of the single-payer advocates and movement? Well, in the words of the brave nurses who never took “no” for an answer on other healthcare issues from the “Governator” or anyone else, “We’ll be back.” Healthcare is a human right now and it will be when we win this struggle. It’s just going to take more time and, unfortunately, more suffering to get where we need to go.

Meanwhile, many of us wait anxiously for reports out of Pennsylvania where they were having a state Senate hearing today on their state single-payer bill. We have miles to go before we sleep.


From Democracy NOW

On Veterans Day, a new study estimates four times as many US Army veterans died last year because they lacked health insurance than the total number of US soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same period. A research team at Harvard Medical School says 2,266 veterans under the age of sixty-five died in 2008 because they were uninsured. We speak to the report’s co-author, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, professor of medicine at Harvard University and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Video and transcript are available at Democracy NOW.

From Healthcare-NOW!

On Thursday, Mobilization for Health Care for All made another urgent demand to get insurance money out of our democracy so that real reform will not be blocked in America. It is unacceptable that 45,000 Americans die every year because of lack of access to health care.

Nine advocates for Medicare for All were arrested in a patients not profits sit-in in Senator Joseph Lieberman’s office. Lieberman, known as the Senator for Aetna – his number 9 largest contributor, has taken $2.6 million in the last decade from the health sector including the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Two advocates remain in jail refusing to cooperate by not providing identification. Kai Newkirk, national coordinator of the Mobilization, is fasting and is in the DC jail, along with John Morhbacher of Connecticut.

Their demand is clear – publicly pledge to stop taking money from the insurance industry. Join their demand by clicking here to sign a petition to Sen. Lieberman.

When Kevin Zeese, Esq. director of ProsperityAgenda.US met with our colleagues in the cell block, Morhbacker, a member of the Army Reserve in Connecticut, described his senator “as an example of the obstructionists who prevent consideration of Medicare for All.”

Newkirk explains that “as long as insurance corporation money is contributed to politicians like Lieberman they will prevent common sense solutions like Medicare for All that meet the moral standard that everyone should have access to health care.” Newkirk explains further why he risked arrest to challenge Lieberman in this video. Please share the video with your friends, family and networks.

Thousands have already signed the petition to strengthen our numbers. Please join them and ask your friends to do the same. And, some media has taken notice, including ABC national news. Let’s continue to build the Mobilization so the media cannot ignore our cry for real health care reform.

On Tuesday Kai and John will return to court. Please donate now to help with bail, legal, and other support. More actions are being planned to continue to build the pressure and more are waiting in line to sit-in, risk arrest and ensure our demands are heard! If you have not already signed up to risk arrest or participate in the Mobilization you can do so here.

What you can do:

1. Sign the petition urging Lieberman to stop taking insurance money. Click here to sign the petition now. Urge everyone you know to sign the petition.

2. Make a donation to support the Mobilization. Donate for bail money and jail support for those arrested in Lieberman’s office.

3. Call Lieberman and tell him to stop taking insurance money. His numbers are: (202) 224-4041and (860) 549-8463.

4. Keep organizing in your area!

Senator Lieberman is keeping good citizens in jail so he can continue to take money from the insurance industry. Imagine that – while the senate is considering insurance legislation, Lieberman insists on taking insurance money. The pay to play corruption of the health care debate is on display in Washington, DC and Lieberman is the poster boy for insurance corruption.

In 2009, Aetna has already spent over $2 million dollars lobbying for health care “reform” that protect their profits ahead of the health of Americans. Elected officials need to know that voters are aware of their corruption for accepting this money and they will pay a political price for their corruption.

Thousands of you have joined in struggle across our nation. Hundreds have risked arrest. Our numbers are growing by the day. Let’s all do our part for Kai and John – let’s build this Mobilization so Americans who want real health care reform cannot be ignored.

Demand Lieberman get our friends out of jail by publicly pledging to no longer accept money from health insurance companies that are the real death panels–killing democracy, killing us.

Please sign the petition, and donate what you can.

Thank you for joining the fight for Health Care for ALL!

Dr. Margaret Flowers and Charles Loubert, 81, will stay in jail until CEO of CareFirst meets to discuss redirecting lobbying funds to pay for patients care


Baltimore, MD – Two physicians and two supporters were arrested today at a sit-in at a Baltimore CareFirst health insurance office. The sit-in is part of a national groundswell of citizens and health care providers demonstrating for meaningful health care reform at insurance company offices.

Doctor Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician who has testified before Congress on the need for meaningful health care reform, was arrested and intends to stay in jail until the CEO of CareFirst has a public meeting with her. She is joined by Charles Loubert, 81, a Baltimore resident and former teacher who was also arrested, and who was denied health care several years ago by his insurer. Both Flowers and Loubert are refusing to give information to the Baltimore police that would lead to their release until Chet Burrell, the CEO of CareFirst, agrees to meet with them publicly to discuss CareFirst redirecting all funds that go to lobbying, advertising, or political contributions to pay for the care of clients who need it.

Dr. Flowers and Loubert were joined by Dr. Eric Naumberg, also a physician, and Patricia Courtney, also a former teacher. They are part of a national groundswell of civil disobedience at insurance companies to end insurance abuse and win health care for all coordinated by Mobilization for Health Care for All. The mobilization has seen 115 people arrested at health insurance offices in 18 cities so far, with six more actions planned in the coming week. Arrests include several nurses, as well as Matt Hendrickson, MD MPH, who was arrested yesterday in Los Angeles.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) humbles Hudson Institute dilettante over health care bankruptcies during a senate Judiciary sub-committee hearing on bankruptcies driven by catastrophic medical expenses.

From Healthcare-NOW!

The Westside Progressives give their views on the single payer plan infront of Fox Tv LA.

From The Real News Network (via Healthcare-NOW!)

The President meets with doctors who support his reforms but excludes MD’s who support “medicare for all.”

By Single Payer Action (via Healthcare-NOW!)

October 6th

In the Rose Garden this morning, President Obama met with a group of doctors.

From all fifty states.

Banned from the meeting were doctors from Physicians for a National Health Program — representing more than 17,000 docs who support a single payer health care system.

Those doctors were not invited to attend.

They asked to be admitted.

And were denied.

Instead, a small group of these single payer docs circled the White House in protest

And then joined a group of anti-war demonstrators at the front of the White House.

They want Congress to start from scratch.

Dr. Paul Hochfeld led a group of these doctors on a cross-country 22-day, 27-town whistle-stop tour for single payer.

This morning, Hochfeld, an emergency room physician from Corvallis, Oregon, insisted on being admitted to the Rose Garden event.

And amazingly he was allowed in — even though his name was not on the list of doctors to be admitted.

But afterward, Hochfeld said it was a mere “photoshoot.”

“There were no questions,” Hochfeld said after the Rose Garden event. “There were no comments. This was clearly a photoshoot. This isn’t about health care. This is about our legislators needing campaign financing. These were genuine doctors inside. And they agree that our political process is completely corrupt. And that’s the reason we are not getting the only solution to this real mess we are in — single payer.”

“We wanted to meet with President Obama and he refused us,” said. Dr. Michael Huntington, another Oregon doc who traveled cross country with Hochfeld and a group of other Mad as Hell Doctors. “The public option is a sham. It will cost more and serve fewer people than a single payer health plan. Obama’s plan is going to be one public plan swimming in the shark infested waters of private health insurance industry. The public plan will accept the sick and the poor. The wealthy and the employed will be excluded from the public option. The public option will struggle and fail.”

Dr. Andy Coates traveled from Albany, New York to meet with Obama today.

He too was denied entry.

“A single payer plan would save hundreds of billions of dollars a year,” Dr. Coates said. “It would be about health care, not health insurance. Our idea is evidently so dangerous that we had to be moved a quarter mile from the White House. Every entrance to the White House is closed down for the next hour and a half so there wouldn’t be a camera to take a picture showing there are doctors who want national health insurance.”

Dr. Walter Tsou came from Philadelphia to meet with President Obama.

No luck.

“The doctors in the White House will tell you that they support single payer,” Dr. Tsou said. “They want to see something done. But whatever the something is is going to be totally influenced by the insurance and drug lobby. And that something is going to put more billions of dollars of our money into their pockets. I resent that. It’s a waste of our money. We know a better solution — single payer. We need to have the courage to confront the insurance industry. I would urge members of Congress to vote against the way Obamacare is fashioned right now. Obama’s health plan is being fashioned by the industry.”

Dr. Tsou said he supported Obama during 2008, but he’s having second thoughts now.

Sam Husseini, a single payer activist, said after the event that Obama used the docs as props.

“Insurance companies are cherry picking patients,” Husseini said. “Now Obama is cherry picking doctors.”

Bob Schieffer interviews Donna Smith from the California Nurses Association and Robert Zerkilbach of AHIP on a new report on insurance claims.

Watch the video at Healthcare-NOW!

From The Real News Network

From pro-single payer to anti-government plans, a report from a raucous town hall in Virginia with Howard Dean.