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Friday, July 24, 2009

Howard Dean: Put the heat on Wyden

We are at Howard Dean's book signing shindig at Powell's. He was quite polite about it, but he urged the crowd to call Sen. Ron Wyden and urge him to get off the dime and support the "public option" health care reform program.

Our audience with Dean awaits.

UPDATE, 3:38 p.m.: A handful of us bloggers had a nice 15 minutes or so with Dean after the book signing. He's an impressive fellow, to be sure. More tonight.

Comments (14)

The "public option" is industry hokum. SINGLE PAYER PLEASE!

"The Selling of Single-Payer Features" by Helen Redmond


1. The farce in Washington DC called health care reform makes the blood of single-payer supporters boil. That the Obama administration has crafted and is trying to push through an unfathomable, over one-thousand page piece of sh*# legislation that in no way ends the health care crisis, and in fact, strengthens the power and position of the private insurance industry, should not be surprising. Obama sold out on the single-payer solution the moment he decided to run for the presidency and accepted campaign contributions from both the insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

That the voice of single-payer (SP) has been blacked out nationally (documented by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) also makes our blood boil. It’s as if our movement doesn’t exist. But it does. There are hundreds of grassroots SP organizations all across the country engaging in public activism and protest, we just don’t get press.

Only John Conyers single-payer legislation, HR 676, The United States National Health Care Act, fundamentally restructures health care, guarantees it to the entire population (the undocumented, too) and is fully funded. No other piece of legislation is as comprehensive. How many Americans know about this amazing, life-transforming bill that delinks employment from insurance and abolishes the despised health insurance industry? Has there been a front page story or major magazine interview with Congressman Conyers? There’s been virtually no stories about labor’s support for HR 676, despite the fact it’s been endorsed by 554 union organizations in 49 states and by 130 Central Labor Councils.

2. First the “progressive” Democratic Caucus jumped the single-payer ship arguing without even launching a fight that HR 676 was not “politically viable.” A senior research associate with Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) told the following story. He gave testimony to the caucus on why the public option was flawed and to continue robust support for HR 676. He was appalled to learn staffers for caucus members were claiming the public option was the same as single-payer or would lead to single-payer. The staffers banned him from handing out information comparing the public option to single-payer. They tried to censor his speech but he gave it anyway. When members of the caucus asked questions staffers continually interrupted him.

3. Health Care for American (HCAN), Katrina Vanden Heuvel of The Nation, Robert Reich, Joshua Holland of Alternet, and a raft of other progressive political pundits are pumping out article after article attempting to explain away or marginalize the myriad problems with the public option: the gaps in coverage, the millions that will be left uninsured, and how to fund it so that it’s “deficit neutral.”

They often begin by declaring, “I’d prefer a single-payer system but…” But what?

I believe it's called political reality.

Another part of the political reality: this country is sunk. If we cannot get fair consideration of a single payer health plan, what that means is that we leave the private sector health insurers in the picture. Moreover, we now have a proposal that would continue and broaden the prohibition in law on the US government negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. So insurance company profits and administrative costs and monopoly rent will be continuing features of our health care "system". In that form, the system will take us down.

Instituting a single-payer plan does seem to make the most sense, if our goals are lower health costs and universal access to care. But single-payer would mean wiping out the health insurance companies and allowing the government to dictate terms to the drug companies. Personally, I'm all for both of those scenarios. The health insurance companies are unnecessary leeches, and the drug companies have too little incentive to work on behalf of public health.

But we're living in ultra-pro-business America, where the government in general is more interested in providing corporate welfare than demanding corporate responsibility. So I just don't see how a change as radical as single-payer can happen here--at least all at once. And maybe we should keep in mind that there are European models of effective and universal coverage that aren't single-payer.

My hope is that we can start down the road to controlling health costs and providing universal coverage. Some of the health care proposals being debated now in Congress, including one with a public option that would compete with private insurance companies, seem like huge improvements on the disgraceful mess we have now. And there's no reason that half-way decent legislation now couldn't be made more fully decent in the future.

Any half measures implemented now will be with us for at least two generations. Not acceptable. Single payer. Everybody in. Period.

Public option AND single payer means paying too much and rationing. I'd rather NOT have the government telling me what I can and can not have done. Sorry, get the damn government out of my life - their nose is in my life far too much, I don't need more of their bad ideas.

Yeah, there are a ton of other/better ideas, but as long as the only two options being looked at are single payer and/or public option; that's all that anyone thinks about. I really hate the bills that have been presented. The government refuses to look at viable options, the options that it is presenting are NOT viable options.

Native: Paying too much and rationing? What do you think is going on now with private insurance companies? Do you understand how Medicare works? Do you think it involves the government dictating medical care to participants? Do you understand what "option" means, when the "public option" is being discussed?

I'd rather NOT have the government telling me what I can and can not have done.

Yeah, leave that to Blue Cross and Kaiser. They have only your best interests at heart.

How about we just leave our healthcare decisions up to ourselves and our doctors? Leave government and HMOs out of it.

And then we wouldnt need this legislation and all the crazy pork that goes with it.

How about we just leave our healthcare decisions up to ourselves and our doctors?

Tell that to Blue Cross, will ya?

And when the doctor tells you it's going to cost you $50K that you don't have, what do you do then?

Why create some new layer of bureaucracy? Why not make medicare the public option? Double the premium to $192.00 per month until age 65 when it drops 50%. Private insurers would still provide supplemental insurance to cover the modest co-pay. Couple that with legislation which prohibits discrimination based on pre-existing health conditions. (more risk) - (lower profit for private insurer)
Disqualify those who earn more than $500k annually from participation in the public option. That leaves a pretty lucrative market for private insurance profiteering. Whadayathink??

"Not acceptable. Single payer. Everybody in. Period."

Them's strong words, tough guy.

Single-payer is a fine idea, but exactly how many votes do you think you have in Congress for killing the health insurance companies and slapping the drug companies into submission?

I've got to assume that you're a recent immigrant from Sweden and aren't familiar with our American ways. For the past 30 years around here we've preferred to give more tax breaks to millionaires before providing health insurance to more of our fellow citizens.

Personally, I'll take some real progress over holding on to an angry dream of perfection. The more people with health insurance the better; the more protection from catastrophic medical bills the better. It's not an all or nothing proposition. Real lives are at stake.

And when the doctor tells you it's going to cost you $50K that you don't have, what do you do then?

We would have to go back to the system of doctor bills based on your income & ability to pay.

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