Single-payer advocates protest Senate hearing
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  May 8, 2009

Single-payer advocates protest Senate hearing


Chair of Finance Committee takes single-payer plan off the table and calls for "more police"
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transcript

Single-payer advocates protest Senate hearingPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: On May 5, the US Senate Finance Committee held hearings on health care reform. During the session, senators asked the panel of what Washington calls "invited stakeholders" their opinions on the best ways to reform the American health-care system. Missing from the panel were advocates of a single-payer health-care system, which is a way of saying a primarily government-run insurance plan like that in Canada, Europe, and most of the industrialized world, a plan that more or less cuts out private insurance companies. Opponents of a single-payer plan say Americans will never accept socialized medicine, which they say describes the single-payer plan. But according to a 2008 poll by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health, when Americans were asked what they thought of socialized medicine, 45 percent said it would be better, and only 39 percent said it would be worse. Although Senator Baucus did not invite single-payer advocates onto his panel, several made an appearance anyway, and they demanded a seat at the table.

~~~

Courtesy: C-SPAN

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: We don't need a pay-to-play Senate taking millions from the insurance industry, the HMOs, and the pharmaceutical companies. And you're denying the people a voice. Single-payer national health care is what these people need. [inaudible] the public. What kind of democracy is it when you pay to play, when you take millions from the people of the [United States] and give money to your corporate donors and not provide health care to all? What kind of Senate is this? Is this the Blagojevich Senate? Are you the Blagojevich chairman? We need single-payer on the table now!

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): Committee will stand in recess until the committee can restore order.

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: [inaudible] national health program [inaudible]

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: We want a seat at the table.

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: We want more police.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Isn't there someplace they can watch it on television?

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: You said yesterday, Senator Baucus, that everything's on the table. Why not single-payer? We have doctors in this room right now who are willing to take a seat at that table to testify in favor of Medicare for all, single-payer. They should be at the table. You can't exclude what the majority of Americans want and the majority of doctors want.

BAUCUS: The committee will be in order. The committee will stand in recess until the police can restore order.

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: Mr. Chairman, members, we need to have single-payer at the table. I have had friends who have died who don't have health care, whose healthcare did not withstand their personal health emergencies. It's only when the people that are living in the park and the people that are living in Park Avenue have the same health care that everybody will have high-quality health care. Single-payer now.

OFF CAMERA: I wonder how many there are.

HEALTHCARE NOW ACTIVIST: Every health care lobbyist in America is at the table. When are the American people going to be heard? We need health care now! Put single-payer on the table now!

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Is there anybody in the audience who didn't come to—?

BAUCUS: Let me say this. I think I speak for everybody on the committee and everybody in the Congress seat deeply, deeply respect the views of all members of the audience and all Americans who feel deeply about health care reform.

~~~

JAY: The hearing themselves were not quite as riveting as the pre-session combat. Much of the proceedings featured Republican Senators and industry panelists arguing not only against a single-payer plan but questioning any kind of expanded public health insurance at all, even when it keeps private insurance companies in the game. Here's Senator Jim Bunning from Kentucky.

SEN. JIM BUNNING (R-KY): Those of us who are presently covered and paying are going to have to ante up more to make sure that everybody is covered. When I look at Sweden and I look at Canada and I look at the United Kingdom, where we have single-payer, and government single-payer, we have a tax rate of 60 percent or higher in those countries.

JAY: Perhaps if single-payer advocates had been at the table, they might have pointed out the following. According to the 2009 OECD factbook, the tax on an average worker in Canada is 33.3 percent. In the UK, it's 32.6 percent. In Sweden, it's 50.1 percent, but people there get free university, and a host of other social services to boot, including unemployment insurance of 42 weeks—64 weeks for those aged 55 and above. Most American workers get 26 weeks. None of the OECD countries have a 60 percent tax rate for workers. Perhaps the good senator wasn't worried about what workers might pay. And what's the average tax rate for workers in the USA? 30.4 percent. So why do workers in Canada and the UK get health insurance and American workers paying almost the same amount of tax don't? And what about the quality of care? Well, infant mortality is considered one of the best measurements of the success of a health-care system. In the United States, 6.26 infants die in 1,000 births. In Canada, it's 5.04. If you're about to be born and want the best chance of making it, you'd probably choose, at 2.75 infant deaths in 1,000, Sweden. And just what does big business want out of all of this? Here's the CEO of the Business Roundtable, which represents 150 CEOs from leading US companies with more than $5 trillion in average revenues and nearly 10 million employees.

JOHN CASTELLANI, PRESIDENT, BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE: We want to be in this game, but it is the single biggest cost pressure that we face, day in and day out. It took oil at $150 to even tie it. In an increasingly international marketplace, where we are competing against companies who reside in countries that have a different model—a different tax model, a different health-care cost model—or we're competing against companies that do not provide health care, this cost burden for US corporations, particularly ones who participate in the global marketplace, is really unsustainable.

JAY: Well, you might ask, if a company that comes from a country with a government health plan (that is, a government single-payer plan) has a competitive advantage, then why doesn't the Business Roundtable favor the single-payer government plan? Well, perhaps Mr. Castellini should've informed us that of his 150 member CEOs, 35 are CEOs of HMOs, health insurance, and pharmaceutical companies, all of whom stand the most to lose from a government-run single-payer plan. Well, according to Senator Baucus, the single-payer option is not on the table. Is that because it's not the best plan for the American people? Or is it because of the power of the insurance and pharma industries and the pressure of Cold War rhetoric? Perhaps it would make more sense putting the single-payer plan on the table. But I guess you can always do this instead:

~~~

BAUCUS: We need more police.

GRASSLEY: Isn't there someplace they can watch it on television?

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



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