Put single-payer on the table

Editorial: Times Union (Albany, NY), May 19th, 2009

Earlier this month, eight courageous doctors, lawyers and other activists interrupted a Senate Finance Committee meeting on health care reform to ask why there wasn’t one advocate of a single-payer health care system at the table. Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, had them arrested. Shame on Senator Baucus, and shame on Congress if it continues to stifle debate on one of the biggest issues facing this country.

To claim, as they have, that “everything is on the table” except a nationalized health insurance system, similar to what many other modern, industrial Western nations have, is much like saying the Thanksgiving meal is complete, except for the turkey.

We are not saying single-payer is necessarily the answer. We are saying that a full discussion of the future of health care in America can’t take place if all credible potential solutions aren’t examined.

We are mindful that there are powerful pressures on President Obama and Congress against discussing a government-run health care program – whether it is one that coexists with a private insurance market or one, like single-payer, that replaces it entirely. There are the inevitable charges from critics on the right of the S-word – socialism – at any hint of the government suggesting it could do a better job than the private sector.

And then there’s the vast and entrenched health care industry, looking to scuttle mere talk of a plan that might help the nation gain control of spiraling health care costs and provide decent, affordable coverage to the 50 million people without it. Hence its vague offer last week to trim an astounding $2 trillion in costs over 10 years. That the industry could shave $2 trillion, just like that, would seem to only hint at the excess there is in the current health care system.

And what exactly was this offer?

To trim future growth from a crushing 7 percent a year to a still-unsustainable 5.5 percent. And if costs grow faster anyway? Will we be told, well, it’s still less than it might have been?

We recognize that Democrats would want to avoid the more uncomfortable discussion. There are many – including New York’s own Sen. Charles Schumer – who agree a single-payer system is the solution America needs, but that it isn’t practical right now.

Well, if we can’t even discuss it now – when the country is in a recession and the ranks of the uninsured are growing; when major industries like automakers are buckling, in no small measure because of health care costs; when Americans are poised for change and the party that promised it is in power – then when?

Perhaps those who prefer to shy away from the uncomfortable yet absolutely necessary discussion could take courage from 75 members of Congress, including 10 from New York – among them freshman Democrat Paul Tonko of Amsterdam – who signed on to Rep. John Conyers Jr.’s single-payer bill. Or from the people who earlier this month, at the risk of arrest, went to Washington to say what they thought was best for the nation.

We’d like to imagine we sent our representatives there for the same reason.

The issue:

Congress shut down debate on a single-payer health care system before it even started.

The Stakes:

A solution that many believe is the best for the nation needs to at least be discussed.


  1. Alexander Hamilton on May 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    On May 15, Alabama State Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) drafted a resolution condemning the entire scheme of health care “reform” emanating from the Obama Administration. Jackson, chair of the Agriculture Committee of the Alabama House of Representatives, and member of the Health Care Committee of the legislature, drafted his resolution for introduction into either a special session of the legislature, or the scheduled 2010 regular session. It is being circulated for discussion among legislators around the nation.

    The resolution (appended below) is a blunt attack on the proposed policy coming out of Peter Orszag, Chairman of the Office of Management and Budget, Larry Summers, the chief economic advisor to the President, and President Obama himself, and likens the direction of the policy of cost-cutting and health care rationing to the very same policies that were implemented by Nazi Germany. Jackson condemns this entire approach and calls for repeal of the murderous HMO bill enacted by President Richard Nixon in 1973, and replacing it with a return to the Hill-Burton legislation that is still on the books as propounded by Alabama Senator Lister Hill and Ohio Senator Harold Burton in 1946.

    Jackson also cites economist Lyndon LaRouche as the leading spokesman against the Obama administration plan.


    WHEREAS, the current health care system dominated by managed care HMOs is systematically cutting care and services to the entire nation; and

    WHEREAS, the overhead costs under the HMO system now constitute 30-35% of all costs, as against 2% of costs of the government-run Medicare Program; and

    WHEREAS, health care infrastructure has been taken down at a shocking rate, including a 25% drop in community hospitals over the past thirty years, and a 40% drop in hospital beds nationally in the same period; and

    WHEREAS, the same banks and insurance companies which run managed care HMOs are also recipients of federal bailout money and are profiting from the misery of the pouplation; and

    WHEREAS, Peter Orszag, Chairman of the Office of Management and Budget, is on record May 3 stating that $700 billion can be carved out of the health care system by down-sizing care, especially in the last two years of life, by implementing comparative effectiveness research methods and other brutal cost cutting; and

    WHEREAS, President Obama and the administration convened a conference of the HMOs, the pharmaceutical companies, the AMA, and other for-profit health care groups on May 11 who announced they would cut health care costs by $2 trillion over ten years, which will include curtailing treatments and procedures; and

    WHEREAS, precisely these methods were used under the Hitler Regime to initiate the process of killing “Useless Eaters,” for which the Nazis were sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Tribunals conducted at the end of WWII; and

    WHEREAS, economist Lyndon LaRouche and many opponents of managed care, including the Physicians for a National Health Policy, have condemned these policies; now therefore,

    BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, That the Alabama House of Representataives hereby condemns the stated policy of President Obama, Peter Orszag, Economic Advisor Larry Summers, and others to enact murderous cuts in services through their health care reform program; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we call upon the Congress of the United States to repeal the Health Maintenance and Resource Development Act (HMO Bill) of 1973, and return instead to the successful Hill-Burton Act of 1964, as passed in the U.S. Congress by Senator Lister Hill of Alabama. Hill-Burton in combination with extended and upgraded medicare coverage for the population will guarantee health care for all our citizens.

  2. MOCKBADOC on May 22, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I share your frustration. My viewpoint was also completely ignored during the recent hearings. Of course, I’m not sitting around whining about it.

    The least expensive option for health care reform – the one that gives the most individual freedom and lowest national costs, the one that promotes personal responsibility and puts power back in the hands of the actual patients – that option has also been shunned as anathema by the administration and Congress.

    How do you make health care fair, affordable, Constitutionally-sound, and completely free from bureaucratic interference? Let people pay for routine care as the service that it is, choosing from free-market alternatives, the same way they buy groceries or call on a plumber when they need one.

    Want to reform health care? Get out of the way, and stop preaching the demented message that health care is a human right. You can not claim a right that requires the servitude of another person. The Southern U.S., according to your logic, could have rightfully argued that they had a “right” to cotton grown by slaves. Why would it have been a right? Well, because they wanted it and had the ability to force others to give it to them, of course.

    According to your logic, people have a “right” to something merely because they want it and/or need it. Any honest reflection on this belief will reveal a slippery slope that can only lead, inevitably, to the destruction of personal liberty at the hands of a mob. Today, they have a “right” to my services as a doctor, and they demand that I give it to them at any price, or at no price at all, merely because they have the political might to force me to give it. Tomorrow, it will be bakers and butchers, or perhaps plumbers, or electricians. This mindset makes you no better than a slave master.

  3. Eliza Jane Dodd on May 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    My idea stolen by the VETERANS >>>>No just kidding …sorta ….this was my Idea 3 or so years ago for Universal Health Care …I said WHY DONT WE HAVE A LOTTO FOR IT ????And everyone laughed …now I hope they all EAT CROW ….OK Kate read this > Star Telegram Ft Worth Texas ( HOUSE APPROVES SCRATHCH OFF-GAME TO BENEFIT VETERANS )
    Under LOTTERY on the Front Page May 16th 2009 article by; Dave Montgomery Star Telegram Ft.Worth news-paper …Please everyone read this article ?? I think having a Lottery for Universal Health Care is a WINNER !