Baucus soothes single-payer backers

By Carrie Dudoff Brown for Politico

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told leading advocates of a government-financed health care system that he made a mistake by not giving their proposals more consideration in the reform debate, according to participants in a meeting Wednesday.

He also vowed to use the “power of his office” to make sure charges are dropped against about a dozen people who protested after advocates of a government-backed plan were excluded from recent Finance Committee hearings, the participants said.

“That was concrete movement. Unfortunately, there was not very much in the way of other concrete movement,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and associate professor medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“While he did say it was probably a mistake not to have given a full hearing to single payer in the past, he announced no intention of opening up the hearings on single payer in the future and we will therefore need to continue to press him,” Himmelstein said.

Baucus has faced sustained pressure from advocates of so-called single-payer health care, a system in which government is the sole provider of health insurance. And concession that it was a mistake not to include single payers is notable shift for the lead Senate negotiator on health care.

Baucus spokeswoman Erin Shields did not address the participants’ take on the meeting in a statement.

“Senator Baucus met privately with single-payer advocates today and discussed their shared goals of providing quality, affordable health care to every American,” the statement read. “Senator Baucus asked them to work together with him to pursue that goal this year.”

Baucus has often said every proposal is on the table — except single payer health care because there is no way Congress would go for it. President Barack Obama, who said in 2003 that a single payer system is “what I would like to see,” has also said the option isn’t politically feasible.

Those involved in the health care negotiations say single payers have been elevated precisely because Baucus excluded them. Baucus has been able keep almost every interest group involved in the process from speaking out against the ideas under consideration. But because they are not involved, single payers have been one of the only vocal constituencies hammering away at Baucus.

The virtual shut-out has emboldened the movement.

After being left off the invite list for the White House health care forum in March, single payer advocates alerted the media and won a seat at the table. They disrupted each of the Finance Committee’s three roundtables on health care in April and May.

And last week in Montana, single-payer advocates flooded town halls arranged by his Senate office, earning significant local media attention. Baucus did not attend the meetings, and sent staff and a videotaped message instead.

“Senator Baucus was working and had commitments that prevented him from attending the town halls,” Baucus spokesman Tyler Matsdorf said.

Wednesday’s meeting was arranged by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who supports single-payer health care, and included representatives from the California Nurses Association and Physicians for a National Health Program.

7 Comments

  1. nancy yohon on June 3, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I’m for single payer health ins .as you know senator we are being ripped by the privite ins companys and will get worse in the coming years.It will be even worse for our children and grand kids,if the companys keep raping the people with higher rates.



    • Ann Ewalt Hamilton, MD on June 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm

      After the government has been over paying for medical care via the advantage plans put on by the corporate insurances and plan D supervised by corporate insurances, why haven’t Pres Obama and the Congress learned that including the private insurances is a very expensive was to deal with health care expenses. They whine about how expensive Medical care is and then they don’t want to prune out the most expensive and useless part of providing medical care- namely the private, purely administrative part.

      I think the people who are frightened by the concept of single payer being equivalant to socialize medicine are 1) 50 years behind the times in their thinking 2) do not understand that a National Plan will be like Medicare.We have paid for it with pay roll taxes. It is not free. Socialized medicine is a system in which the doctors are payed by, the hospitals are owned by and the medical supplies (drugs, bandages,IV lines, etc) are payed for out of the governmental general fund. I think we need to be making a big deal out of this difference.



  2. chabuka on June 5, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    This is the most important issue of the time..we must have single-payer Medicaid type Health Insurance for all citizens..don’t tell me we can’t afford it…taxpayers have been paying into Medicaid for over forty years….where has all that money gone….Congress..? Putting a stop to the power that the Health Care Insurance companies, Big Pharma and HMO’s have over our government, our “elected officials” and the consumer/taxpayers would be a giant step in recaliming our country..a government (as promised in our Constitution) “of the people, for the people, by the people”….not for the wealthiest of the private, for profit corporation CEO’s and Executives…
    We can change our lives, our country, our government…but you must get up, get on your feet, march and protest…as long and loud as it takes…just be there!
    P.S. while we’re at it..lets throw the corporate lobbyists (and their corporate checkbooks) out of our Congress



  3. Eliza Jane Dodd on June 8, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Baucus has gotten over a QUATER MILLION from the Health Care Industry and Drug Co.’s to STOP HR676 !



  4. Tom on June 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Even the people in Montana are fed up with Max Baucus..How this man has existed for so long in the Senate is amazing.It’s time to bulldoze the current healthcare system and put single payer in place. It’s a fight worth fighting and winning.We’ve suffered long enough and the hands of for profit health insurance companies and the puppet politicians who allow them to exist!!



  5. JerryinCincy on June 8, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    We need a national March on Washington in the coming weeks as Congress debates health care reform. It doesn’t have to be only single-payer advocates, but any groups that advocate major health care reform that includes an affordable, public option for all citizens.

    Has anyone heard of anything being planned? If we are able to organize and show up in numbers, then Congress will have to pay attention and the media coverage would help give us momentum to pressure Congress to act.



    • Sherry on June 13, 2009 at 1:22 pm

      I agree. I want to know when we march? The only way this is going to happen is by mass protest, too big to ignore, in the streets.

      Insurance Companies are the problem, not the solution! Single Payer now!

      If you learn anything about a planned march, please let me know. I’d like to be there.