Why No Single Payer System on the Table

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Since Washington Won't Discuss Single-Payer, What's The Strategy?

By Isaiah J. Poole

David Sirota's post Tuesday asks why Washington political leaders won't even discuss a single-payer health care system, with a leading Democrat going so far as to exclude single-payer advocates from participating in a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week at which several single-payer advocates ended up getting arrested

In a two-part interview on The Real News Network, Roger Hickey, who as co-director of the Institute for America's Future is working closely with the Health Care for America NOW! coalition, addressed the question by conceding that politicians aren't ready to make the leap.

"It's clear that the American political system right now is not going to deal with single-payer," Hickey tells Paul Jay of TRNN. "And it's not just the Senate, although that's the worst situation. There's a group of members of the House of Representatives who are supportive of single-payer, but they're a small minority. And everybody knows that when the deals get done and the bills get written, there is not going to be a pure single-payer bill on the table, or it will be on the table but off to the [side]."

Hickey and Health Care for America NOW! are leading the effort to get Congress to create a public health insurance plan that would compete with private plans. The fight in Congress right now, as Robert Borosage points out in his column today, is with insurance companies who want to protect their near-monopoly from a public plan that would curtail their ability to raise prices and reduce quality.

"The danger," Hickey says, "is that what we'll end up doing is like what they did in Massachusetts: requiring everybody to buy insurance, throwing subsidies that the insurance companies for the very poor, and creating a system where we pretending to be covering everybody but we're really not. And we are certainly not doing it in a way that challenges the prerogatives of the insurance companies in our system."

"It's clear that the American political system right now is not going to deal with single-payer," Hickey tells Paul Jay of TRNN. "And it's not just the Senate, although that's the worst situation. There's a group of members of the House of Representatives who are supportive of single-payer, but they're a small minority. And everybody knows that when the deals get done and the bills get written, there is not going to be a pure single-payer bill on the table, or it will be on the table but off to the [side]."

Hickey and Health Care for America NOW! are leading the effort to get Congress to create a public health insurance plan that would compete with private plans. The fight in Congress right now, as Robert Borosage points out in his column today, is with insurance companies who want to protect their near-monopoly from a public plan that would curtail their ability to raise prices and reduce quality.

"The danger," Hickey says, "is that what we'll end up doing is like what they did in Massachusetts: requiring everybody to buy insurance, throwing subsidies that the insurance companies for the very poor, and creating a system where we pretending to be covering everybody but we're really not. And we are certainly not doing it in a way that challenges the prerogatives of the insurance companies in our system."

In Part II of the interview, Hickey says that single-payer advocates are an important part of the battle.

"The single-payer folks are eloquent at explaining why the health-insurance system in the United States is wasteful and pointing out how corrupt they are in terms of trying to manipulate the legislative system," Hickey says. "So we have worked with single-payer groups and demonstrations outside the health-insurance company headquarters and around the country. And I say that this is the time for people to say what they want. If you are a single-payer advocate, you should be out there talking to your member of Congress about that. You may not get what you want, but you'll have an impact on the thinking of every member of Congress."

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This page contains a single entry by cul published on May 20, 2009 2:44 PM.

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