Congressmen will talk about health reform

By Cathleen F. Crowley for

As the nation grapples with improving the health care system and making it more affordable, a contingent of people believe the answer is a single-payer system.

But advocates worry that their idea is being sidelined.

Representatives of the single-payer movement were initially locked-out of health care summit called by President Barack Obama earlier this month — until supporters raised a ruckus.

“I think mainstream wisdom in Washington is reform that is not built on the private health insurance industry will not pass,” said Dr. Andrew Coates, an Albany doctor who is secretary of the Capital District Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Plan. “They do not want a knock-down, drag-out fight.”

Under a single-payer system, private doctors and hospitals deliver health care but the bill is paid by the government. It’s also known as “Medicare for all.”

Single-payer advocates will host a forum on Sunday at the Westminster Presbyterian Church to explain the system to people who are not familiar with it. U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, who has proposed a single-payer bill in Congress, will speak along with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, of Amsterdam, who signed on as a co-sponsor to his fellow Democrat’s bill.

Conyers, who eventually attended Obama’s health summit, said he presumes the late invitation was due to the administration’s reluctance to give his bill prominence.

A single-payer system would eliminate the need for private health insurance and potentially wipe out the industry.

“The insurance lobby is the one that has kept us from a single-payer system for the last three or four generations,” Conyers said in a telephone interview.

The Presbyterian Church USA has decided that a single-payer system is the best option for health reform, and is hosting 10 forums around the country to educate people about it.

Single-payer “streamlines what is the biggest waste in the system, which is the incredible (duplication) of effort and time doctors and practitioners spend just following the paper trail,” said the Rev. Cass Shaw.

Shaw is leader of the Albany Presbytery, which represents 73 congregations and 8,000 Presbyterians in the Capital Region.

In addition to the congressmen, the forum will have a panel of faith leaders from churches, mosques and synagogues in the area.

“For us, it’s a religious issue as well as a civic issue,” Shaw said.

Sunday’s free forum will be from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State St., Albany. Call 434-7371 for more information.


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