Single-Payer Healthcare Alliance Forms in Washington, D.C.

By David Swanson

With Barack Obama about to assume the presidency and take up the healthcare issue, leaders of single-payer healthcare organizations met for two days, November 11 – 12, at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC), Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), Healthcare-NOW! , and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) convened the meeting. Providing healthcare to the millions of Americans who lack it was a centerpiece of the presidential campaigns.

Approximately sixty people representing over a dozen organizations and three members of Congress were in attendance. The agenda included a political overview, developing a legislative strategy, and alliance-building discussions. Among the represented groups were Healthcare-NOW!, the AFL-CIO, All Unions Committee for Single-Payer, American Medical Students Association, Rep. John Conyers, and aides from the offices of Reps. Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich.

There was broad agreement among the participants that a single-payer healthcare plan, H.R. 676 specifically, is not only the solution to solving the problem of providing healthcare to every American, but is also a sensible part of any economic stimulus package and lasting economic recovery.

Concern was expressed that a plan similar to the Massachusetts health plan will be offered by Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, which could pass out of respect for his service in the Senate. The law, enacted in 2006, subsidizes healthcare corporations with taxpayer dollars and mandates that Massachusetts citizens buy health insurance.

The Boston Globe reports the costs of providing healthcare to most of its residents have risen well above the original estimates-the state faces huge shortfalls and will need to secure additional revenue from the federal government or drastically reduce the benefits. While a deep respect for Sen. Kennedy’s contributions was evident, participants rejected the Massachusetts plan as the cure to U.S. healthcare woes.

In addition, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s healthcare plan was rejected on the same grounds. See this article, Baucus Health Plan is Fatally Flawed.

There was general agreement that single-payer healthcare legislation would provide economic stimulus by drastically reducing the number of employee sick days, creating thousands of new jobs in the delivery of healthcare (as opposed to the thousands of jobs which currently exist for the purpose of denying health insurance claims), and by containing rising costs from bulk-purchasing, advertising, CEO salaries and benefit packages, and a profit-driven system.

Members of the alliance will continue to meet regularly to ensure single-payer healthcare, H.R. 676, becomes a meaningful part of the healthcare reforms Obama will consider as the debate moves forward.

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