At Jefferson, Conyers backs Obama health stand

By Michael Vitez for the Philadelphia Inquirer

U.S. Rep. John Conyers. Jr. (D., Mich.) said today that President Obama won’t support single-payer universal health insurance now because he’s got too much on his plate – two wars and an economic crisis – and he’s got to settle for the health care reform he can get.

Conyers, speaking at Thomas Jefferson University, said the president will push through a public-private system of health reform – keeping private insurance through employers, and expanding a Medicare-like system for the uninsured – “if he’s lucky.”

Obama has pledged repeatedly to pass health reform this year that will provide coverage to all Americans, including the 46 million uninsured.

Conyers came to Philadelphia to rally support for his bill which would create a single-payer system — essentially Medicare for all.

According to the bill, Americans would pay into a health care trust fund, most likely through payroll taxes, and that fund would pay all hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers for their services. Everything from opthamology to long term care would be included. Private insurance companies would no longer be needed.

Conyers attended the health care summit at the White House Thursday, although he was a last-minute invitee. “It was very heavy with corporate health care interests – Big Pharma, insurance companies – the people who don’t want single payer,” he said.

He joked that “I really wowed the president. I didn’t say anything,” although at least five other times in break-out sessions others sang the praises and called for a single payer system, he said.

“Why can’t we start from the point of view that health care is an inherent constitutional right,” he said today. “If it is a right, it shouldn’t be based on employment, whether you have a job. So many people in American don’t have jobs now, I don’t need to tell you.”

Conyers said a single-payer system is used in all the other major industrialized nations of the world, and is the only way to guarantee that right.

According to supporters, a single payer system would remove all barriers to care, cover all medically necessary services, allow Americans to choose their own doctors, save enough money through a reduction in bureaucracy and administration to cover all the uninsured and pay for itself.

Physicians for a National Health Program, whose members handed out literature, claims that 14,000 American doctors support single-payer system, including two former surgeon generals.

Ted Christopher, director of emergency medicine at Jefferson, and a supporter of single payer, said he believed “there is tons of waste” in the current system, and underscored the urgency of reform. “We see more and more uninsured every day,” he said.

Critics of a single payer system say it will lead to rationing of health care, delays getting into hospitals and specialists, and shortages of doctors. They call it socialized medicine.

Chuck Pennacchio, executive director of HealthCare4ALLPA, a state group pushing bills in the state house and senate for a universal, single-payer system, also responded to the criticisms of a single payer system by saying, “We’ve already got all that already — a rationing of care and a shortage of doctors. Everyone knows we don’t have enough family practice physicians.”

He said polls have shown Pennsylvania to have more support for a single-payer system than any other state. And he said Gov. Rendell has promised to sign Senate Bill 300 and House Bill 1660 — The Family & Business Healthcare Security Act — if the state legislature passes them.

Conyers told the group at Jefferson that only three Pennsylvania congressmen have co-sponsored his bill – Democrats Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady of Philadelphia, and Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh. “How many Congressman do you have in Pennsylvania?” he asked the group.

One retired physician told Conyers that “single payer will never happen in my lifetime.”

Conyers, 79, drew a huge laugh when he replied, “You may not get it in your lifetime, but I’ll get it in mine.”

From the Philadelphia Inquirer.


  1. Clay Butler on March 9, 2009 at 11:27 am


    I voted for Obama, and I realize he’s taken on a real mess that W and his gang left behind. However, the ONLY real “healthcare for all” approach that makes any sense is single payer. It’s simply got to happen!

    Clay Butler
    Bellingham, WA

    • J Deal on March 9, 2009 at 4:32 pm

      “He’s got two wars… and an economic crisis”…. Health care is a part of that economic crisis.
      And what everyone seems to be afraid of is the last sentence in paragraph five: Private insurance companies would no longer be needed.

      Somebody has to tell them.

  2. Eliza Jane Dodd on March 10, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I thought I heard President Obama say He was getting us HR676 must of been my ears playing tricks on me .I want this so bad I would do anything to get President Obama’s attention for it .Just 10 minutes is all I need to tell him just my Health Care Horror story .The Media all they way to Good Moring America are all in on it to .I heard their shows Doctor last week tell Diane Sawyer that ANYONE can get help at the Department of Human Services if they have no health care .That is a LIE and I know it and all the other women like me know it .I was told in 2 states the same thing from the Department of Human Services “If you have a baby or get Pregnant you can get State Care , But Right Now you Dont Qualify ” (only for Death)I am 46 Years Old ! and I have COLON CANCER .I take Purple Corn From Peru to stay alive .It is working so far .I found online @ A&M Texas .I take Pill form and Chicha Mirada “Tea” and mega vitamins ! meaning everything I think will help me .I have a vitamin shoppe in my kitchen .I even emailed Diane Sawyer and invited Her along with me to the Department of Human Services to Hear what they tell me .And any where she would like me to go .So I can show the Whole World and President Obama what it is really like for me and all the other people who have no health care and dont live UNDER A BRIDGE .And what a Big Fat Ugly Lie that Doctor on Good Morning America told last week on the show .Giving people FALSE HOPE so No One will ask Questions about Universal Health Care …no one will be in a Panic …as they should be with all the New and Booming TENT CITIES Popping Up all over America .Right now in Dallas average wait time is 19 Hours .Last summer a man died @ 45 years old from waiting ..he was having a heart attack ..and these Tent Cities ..everyone in America must have forgot about the Past …and 1929 and the Poor Houses and Soup Lines and Diseases that killed over a million people .Tent Cities starting blooming on the East Coast during the Regan Years …Middle class white families living in Tents .I seen that with my own 2 eyes and hears .I was on a family vacation from Canada down the East coast and we stayed at Camp sites and we talked to people .We thought they were on Vacation like us ….and as people talk …we heard ..very sad stories ..go read Oprah with Lisa Ling who did the story .I was very afraid when I watched that show .I started to panic .I am so worried ..I am so Nervous .I am Afraid ! in my own country .I am afraid of my own Gov. and how we the people are ignored .We are Invisable .Americans First before we even THINK about helping other Countries .Some way we need to do more ? maybe Boycott something but I dont know what .We must send a IMPACT to Washington to get their Attention Something has to Break !Another Movie needs to be made ! Some real Life situations and make every member of congress watch it ! And then they will not deny HR676 ! or we can call them all cousins of NERO !And we all know he killed anyone and everyone even his own .

  3. esther nason on March 10, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Regardless of size of Pres.Obama’s task, I consider the single payer solution to our health care failure the only plan which will cover everybody, make prevention, mental and dental care key to good health, and reduce our tremendous costs of care. Inclusion of the private insurance companies will thwart this effort and leave us in the same fiasco we are experiencing now. Passage of HR676 and a companion bill in the Senate can be done now! We have to step up our efforts on a local and national level and not give up now.

  4. Helen Scott on March 12, 2009 at 12:55 am

    I live in Oklahoma, and if you are over 18 and need medical care you will not qualify for Medicaid unless you have children, or have been approved for Social Security Disability which can take up to two years. There is so much misinformation out there it is unbelievable!