WASHINGTON, DC — In the wake of a US House vote passing a Democratic health care bill (HR 3962), Green Party leaders and health care activists are calling for a defeat of the bill, calling it little more than a program to subsidize the insurance industry.
Greens are urging supporters of real universal health care to intensify efforts to win Capitol Hill support for Single-Payer/Medicare For All national health care.
“Democrats from President Obama on down know that Single-Payer is the best solution. They’ve said so. But instead of eliminating the waste and inefficiency of for-profit health insurance, the Democrats’ ‘insurance industry life-support’ plan would increase insurance company profits by forcing every American to purchase their inferior products. Many Democrats who previously supported Single-Payer have turned their backs, abandoning real universal health care out of loyalty to the President and their party,” said Midge Potts, Missouri Green candidate for the US Senate (MySpace.com/Midge_Potts_US_Senate).
The Green Party supports Single-Payer, which would guarantee quality health care for every American, allow patients to choose their health care providers, cut paperwork for physicians and hospitals, and reduce health care costs by a third by eliminating the for-profit insurance industry ‘middle man’ (http://www.gp.org/campaigns/health/single-payer). Greens advocate a Single-Payer system run by a not-for-profit trust of health care providers, health care advocates, and taxpayers, rather than by the federal government. The Democratic bill accomplishes none of these goals.
“Democrats want phony health care reform, Republicans want zero reform. Greens seek real reform by making health care a right instead of a privilege, just as we’ve made Social Security, education, and the protections we enjoy from fire and police departments a right for everyone,” added Ms. Potts, one of nine peaceful protesters arrested on November 5 at the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Joseph Lieberman until the senator agreed to stop taking campaign contributions from the insurance industry (video clip: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=59896394&blogId=517420995).
Greens strongly criticized congressional Democrats like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who withdrew his Single-Payer bill last week to support HR 3962. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had promised a vote after August on Single-Payer legislation, which sponsors of the latter have decided to withdraw.
When Rep. Pelosi, after vocal protests from Single-Payer supporters (including a sit-in at her Capitol Hill office) finally agreed to the vote but allowed only 20 minutes for debate, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) issued a public statement opposing the vote on the grounds that Single-Payer had not received an adequate hearing.
“Reps. Conyers and Kucinich argued that a quick vote and perfunctory defeat of Single-Payer would damage hopes for Single-Payer (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/11/06-8). Tabling this vote made passage of the Democratic House bill possible, with yea votes from those who previously favored Single-Payer — making progressive Democrats as responsible as Blue Dogs and Republicans for killing real health care reform. The point of a vote on Single-Payer, regardless of its chances of passage right now, was to focus attention on Single-Payer and build momentum and public support,” said Holly Hart, secretary of the Green Party of the United States.
Like Midge Potts, several Green Party candidates and activists have participated in protests and civil disobedience to draw attention to the demand for Single-Payer. Howie Hawkins, who placed second on November 3 in Syracuse, New York city council race, was arrested on November 4 in downtown Syracuse during a non-violent demonstration outside the office of National Government Services, a Medicare claims processing operation owned by Wellpoint Inc., a major health insurer (video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PH76jQKzaA).
Mobilization for Health Care For All (http://mobilizeforhealthcare.org), which is organizing the protests, was founded by Kevin Zeese, Maryland Green candidate for the US Senate in 2006.
“No heath care reform bill should be enacted that doesn’t allow individual states to enact Single-Payer,” added Matt Reichel, Green candidate for Congress in Illinois’s 5th District (http://www.mattreichel.us), referring to the Kucinich amendment. “Rep. Pelosi stripped the provision for state-based Single-Payer from the House bill and Democrats weakened the public option to satisfy the insurance lobby. These betrayals justify a ‘voters revolt’ against Democrats in 2010, if they offer a health care bill that wastes taxpayers’ money and favors the insurance industry over Americans who need medical care.” (Article by Mr. Reichel on health care reform: http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/11/shut-down-this-murderous-racket-change-we-need-and-crave/)
The Green Party listed reasons to reject the Senate version of HR 3962:
• The ‘public option’ in the bill would enroll only 2% of the population by 2019. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the public option “would cost more than private plans” since it would enroll primarily the poorest and sickest members of society. Insurance companies will probably end up administering the public option plan. (Single-Payer ends the provision of health coverage by insurance companies, which raise health costs by nearly a third to cover overhead, administrative costs, CEO salaries, and profits for shareholders.)
“Democrats and their allies like Health Care for America NOW (HCAN) are trying to pull the wool over our eyes, pretending that this is a fight for a robust public option and universal health care. Democrats killed the public option a month ago in everything but name. They turned the public option into fig leaf for the corporate option their plan embraces. The real winners will be the insurance companies, since the Democrats are using the insurance mandate to gift-wrap 50 million new customers for them,” said Mr. Hawkins.
• Access to health insurance will still primarily be tied to employment. An employee who loses his or her job will still lose coverage. Employers, not employees, will choose their workers’ insurance company and their health care provider. (Single-Payer relieves businesses of the burden of providing health insurance benefits and allows Americans to choose their physician or hospital.)
• The House bill further increases health care spending. The US already spends nearly double ($7,200 per capita) what other industrial countries spend for their citizens. To reduce the increase in costs to the federal government, the Democrats’ plan would push more and more of the financial burden for health care onto state governments and consumers, while reducing subsidies to consumers. (Past studies by the GAO and CBO confirm that Single-Payer would save hundreds of billions of dollars annually in total health care spending.)
• The House bill denies health care for all immigrants, a restriction that would ultimately cost the US more in money and lives, since denial of treatment to anyone encourages the spread of disease among everyone, regardless of health coverage. (Single-Payer’s financial savings would fully offset the cost of health care for immigrants and improve the quality of health care for all.)
• Tens of millions of Americans will either not be required to purchase insurance or will choose to pay a penalty rather than do so. Those who buy subsidized plans, mostly the working poor, will find that many services are not covered and that they will lack the funds to pay the deductibles and co-pays needed for medical treatment, since the plans are designed to only cover 70% of costs. (Single-Payer will offer comprehensive health care for everyone.)
• Even though most Americans who presently lack health insurance are the working poor (75%) and those working for small employers, small employers are exempted from the requirement to provide health insurance. (Single-Payer covers everyone regardless of employment, ability to pay, age, or prior medical condition.)
• The AMA endorsed the Democratic bill, but only 17% of physicians (out of 800,000 in the US) are AMA members. 59% of physicians and a majority of the public support Single-Payer/Medicare For All. (Sources: http://www.pnhp.org/news/2008/march/most_doctors_support.php / http://www.healthcare-now.org/another-poll-shows-majority-support-for-single-payer / http://www.wpasinglepayer.org/PollResults.html)
“The destructive role of insurance companies is the biggest problem with the American health care system,” said Sanda Everette, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. “It’s why we spend so much money and yet suffer a health care delivery system consistently ranked the worst among industrial countries, even though we have some of the best doctors, nurses, hospitals, and medical technology. We can save hundreds of billions of dollars annually by eliminating private for-profit insurance and using these funds to give every American access to quality health care. Instead, Democrats are offering a bill that would tighten the stranglehold of the insurance companies. This is not the change Americans were promised last November.”
Hat tip to Ron Hardy at Green Party Watch.