Doctors Protest Exclusion of Single-Payer at Senate Finance Committee
WASHINGTON - May 5 - Doctors and other advocates of a national single-payer health system – also known as an improved Medicare for All – directly confronted senators at a Senate Finance Committee “roundtable” on health reform today.
One-by-one, eight single-payer advocates in the audience stood up during the opening comments of the hearing and asked why single-payer experts were being excluded from the proceedings. They each spoke out in turn until they were removed from the committee hearing room, one-by-one, by U.S. Capitol police.
The doctors and others said that a publicly funded, privately delivered single-payer system is the only solution to the crisis plaguing our nation’s non-system of health care, noting that single-payer national health insurance would guarantee coverage for everyone and contains costs.
Despite polling that shows a clear majority of public and physician support for a single-payer system, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has stated on multiple occasions that single payer is “off the table” of health reform.
Today’s round table, the second of three, consisted of 15 witnesses with no single-payer advocates among them. By contrast, several witnesses have direct ties to the for-profit, private health insurance industry.
The doctors and activists were dressed in black, which they said was in memory of the 22,000 people who die every year due to lack of health insurance. They represented a coalition of single-payer advocacy organizations including Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Healthcare-NOW, Single Payer Action, Private Health Insurance Must Go, the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics, Prosperity Agenda, and Health Care for the Homeless.
“Health insurance administrators are practicing medicine without a medical license,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, co-chair of Maryland chapter of PNHP. “The result is the suffering and death of thousands of patients for the sake of private profit. The private health insurance industry has a solid grip on patients, providers and legislators. It is time to stand up and declare that health care is a human right.”
Much to the frustration of Baucus, the multiple disruptions demanding single-payer be on the table set the tone for the second of three roundtables on Health Reform by the Senate Finance Committee.
Katie Robbins, assistant national coordinator of Healthcare-NOW, said: “The current discussion on health reform is political theater at its best. Our elected officials are hosting these events to go through the motions of what developing effective national health policy should look like. There is a big difference between getting health policy experts in the room and the witnesses here today who would profit the most from reform. That difference means our hard-earned dollars will go to further insurance industry profits, not to guarantee health care to the American people.”
“It’s a pretty spectacular display of raw political power,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “The health insurance industry demands that not one of the 15 people who testified today shall be a single-payer advocate. And the industry gets what it wants. It’s time for the American people to storm the gates and demand – put single payer on the table.”
Single payer is successfully implemented in the United States’ own Medicare system providing comprehensive care to the elderly, as well as in many of the best health care systems in the world. A single-payer system, as embodied in legislation H.R. 676 and S. 703, would provide guaranteed, quality care to all Americans with no increase in U.S. health spending.
The single-payer advocates said they will continue to use direct actions and nonviolent civil disobedience to urge the inclusion of a publicly funded, privately delivered system.
Other methods of communication with elected officials have failed in delivering the demand for single-payer national health care as evidenced by the exclusion of single-payer advocates from official hearings on health reform.
Healthcare-NOW! is a national grassroots advocacy organization in support of single-payer national health care with a network of activists in 42 states. More information can be found at www.healthcare-now.org
Single Payer Action is a nonprofit activist fueled organization. Find out more at www.singlepayeraction.org
Maryland Chapter Physicians for a National Health Program is a chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance. More information can be found at www.md.pnhp.org
Prosperity Agenda includes single payer national health care as one of the policy changes needed to create an economy that benefits all Americans, not just the wealthiest. www.prosperityagenda.us. Prosperity Agenda is an economic justice project associated with The Campaign for Fresh Air & Clean Politics (www.FreshAirCleanPolitics.net
Margaret Flowers, MD & Katie Robbins
Carol Paris, MD
Pat Salomon, MD & Kevin Zeese