‘Don’t shred our safety nets’

The following text is the testimony that Katie Robbins, national organizer for Healthcare-NOW!, presented to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on June 30 in Washington.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is Katie Robbins and I am here on behalf of Healthcare-NOW!, an organization founded in 2004 to support bill H.R. 676, “the U.S. National Health Care Act” or Expanded and Improved Medicare for All. With membership in 50 states, Healthcare NOW has broad support for single-payer health care.

Healthcare-NOW! opposes any consideration of cutting, privatizing or raising age eligibility for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

We seek to strengthen, not weaken, our social safety net. If passed, H.R. 676 would establish a national single-payer Medicare for All system granting everyone in the United States access to comprehensive, high-quality health care using our existing privately run infrastructure and a progressive financing that will guarantee coverage for all necessary medical care without financial or other barriers.

According to Harvard University studies, eliminating the waste of the multi-payer private insurance industry and moving to a single-payer system will save $400 billion a year. More savings are found in cost controls that a single-payer system can provide such as negotiating drug costs and medical equipment, and global budgeting for hospitals.

Since H.R. 676 was introduced in 2003, it has received tremendous support including endorsements by 582 union organizations in 49 states, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 63 local governments which include 10 of the nation’s 30 largest cities, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and the majority of nurses, patients, and physicians.

Broad support for a single-payer Medicare for All system continues even after the new health law has passed. For example, this past Saturday, June 26, America Speaks, a privately run company, organized “town hall meetings” in 20 cities across the country to discuss the nation’s deficit. America Speaks received funding linked to the Peter Peterson Foundation; the same foundation which is also funding staff to this Fiscal Commission. (Peterson is known to be vocally in support of cutting and privatizing Social Security and Medicare.)

America Speaks claimed that all options would be considered, yet the materials distributed at the events did not include an option to support single-payer health care as a means of controlling health care costs. Despite efforts to silence support for single payer, many participants demanded the option to vote on a single-payer type health care system, which would ultimately reduce costs by making health care more efficient rather than just cutting services in Medicare and other public sector programs. Participants also voted overwhelmingly for defense cuts and for progressive taxation.

Because cost controls are notably absent from the new health law, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform should listen to what the public is urging them to do, and address meaningful cost control in our health care system, which only a single-payer system can provide, as a means to balance the nation’s budget.

We urge you to address cost controls immediately. Healthcare NOW and our network of supporters and allied organizations urge Congress to work to defeat any bill to cut, privatize or dismantle our social safety net – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We demand the enactment of an expanded and improved Medicare for All, H.R. 676, to fix our economy and our (still) broken health care system.

1 Comment

  1. Jan Gable, MD on July 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I will certainly be using this address as a good summary of current status of the single payer movement and still a good primer to introduce single payer to inquirers. Thank you, Katie. Good job.