May 13, 2009

Lobbyists winning on health care

Filed under: Publications — grahamophone @ 6:22 pm

I wrote a piece this week on my sustainability blog about how to get involved in your democracy. Here’s your chance to practice. A poll in January showed 63 percent of Americans want a single-payer universal health-care system. On the other hand, 0 percent of the health care proposals under discussion by the U.S. Senate and President Obama contain a single-payer universal health-care system.

It’s time for the 63 percent to speak up. A few protesters interrupted Senate hearings on health care reform. They were tossed out of the room, but invited to meet with the senators and offer their opinions. Let’s all take them up on the invitation.

Here’s my story published today about my state representative’s attempt at universal health care in Colorado. He tried. My federal representatives aren’t pulling their weight.

A quick note about semantics: Single-payer is a lousy term that doesn’t really help explain the proposal. It makes me think it’s about individuals paying for their own health care, not the government as the single payer.

How about Medicare for All? Medicare works, for the most part, and a proposed expansion of the program is easy to understand. A similar program is in place in Canada, Taiwan and Australia. Taiwanese government officials have said they used the U.S. Medicare system as a model for their country’s single-payer health care plan.

A similar universal expansion of Medicare at the federal level is unlikely in the near future. Senators met this week to discuss health reform, and Obama is hosting White House discussions. They all say they are weighing several options but protestors at yesterday’s Senate hearing and other activists complain single-payer proposals are already off the table.

Instead, the current Democratic proposals would be a middle ground between the current private system and a public single-payer plan. They would likely create a public insurance entity to compete with the private insurance system.

MoveOn, Organizing for America and other progressive organizations keep encouraging me to tell Obama I like his proposal and he should try to get it passed. He doesn’t need to be encouraged to take a half-step. He’s already trying hard to get his middle-of-the-road proposal passed.

He needs to be encouraged to stand up against the insurance lobby and for the 63 percent of Americans that support Medicare for All. I always say that the only reason lobbyists are so powerful is that regular folk aren’t working hard enough to be heard in Washington. It may already be too late to get Medicare for All on the table this year, but you won’t know if you don’t try.

Call or write to your representatives and senators. Tell them to support Medicare for All.


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