Sen. Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee announced last week: “Single-payer option is not on the table because it cannot pass.” A week earlier, a rally, co-sponsored by one of the main advocates of single-payer system, CNA/NNOC took place on Capitol Hill. Hundreds of nurses, doctors and health care reform advocates gathered to express their opinion on the health care issues.

Produced by Ania Smolenskaia


Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: On Wednesday, May 13, hundreds of nurses, doctors, and health-care-reform activists gathered on Capitol Hill to rally in support of the single-payer health plan, also known as John Conyers’ House Resolution 676.

ZENEI CORTEZ, PRESIDENT, CNA/NNOC: We want to tell our elected officials and we want to tell President Obama that as registered nurses, as front-line registered nurses, we need to be included in the debate.

DR. CAROL RITTER, PHYSICIAN: This issue is so important to me that I closed my office to come down to support the nurses and to be part of the Physicians for National Health Care. I’m just tired of insurance companies dictating what we physicians have to do.

ALLEN FITZPATRICK, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, CNA: The people who are having input now are the pharmaceutical companies, the hospital industry, and the health-care industry, the insurance companies. And the people who are advocating for a government-run health-care system like most other industrialized countries have, you know, in Europe and Canada and everywhere else in the world, that isn’t on the table. So what we’re supporting, really, is a government-run health-care system much like Medicare, which is what you get in this country now when you retire and you’re over 65 years of age.

ADRIAN CAMPBELL MONTGOMERY: At the age of 22, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. My doctor rushed me into surgery. Weeks later, I got a denial letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said the type of surgery I had was only recommended for women 26 years of age and older, see, and I was 22. I was left paying out of pocket $8,000 for my cancer surgery. Now I am 27, uninsured, and just battled cancer again, only now I am over $10,000 in debt so far. I am now cancer-free, but financially ruined. We have to take the profit out of health care.

FITZPATRICK: Thirty percent of the premiums go towards profits and administration. So we’re saying, let’s just get rid of them. Let’s do it like Medicare, where the government runs it, the overheads a couple of percent, and we can save money that way and we can insure more people.

VOICEOVER: The chair of the Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus, one of the largest recipients of insurance and drug companies money within the Democratic Party, put forth a plan which is supposed to guarantee that everyone has coverage.

Courtesy: Kaiser Family Foundation

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): And so we’re going to come up with a uniquely American solution, which is also going to be public-private, not, you know, too far to one side, not too far to the other.

VOICEOVER: When delivering remarks to the press at the Kaiser Family Foundation last week, Senator Max Baucus reiterated once more that everything is on the table.

BAUCUS: Everything’s on the table. Everything. All proposals, all ideas groups may have are on the table, and they’re going to stay on the table. We’re going to discuss them. And if anyone finds something on the table that he or she has a negative reaction to, I say: suspend judgment, hold off judgment, suspend judgment, at least for 15 minutes. Try to see if there’s a way to get to yes. Think about it. There might be a positive angle here.

VOICEOVER: When confronted by a single-parent advocates outside the building, Senator Baucus refrained from answering why single-payer was not on the table.

GROUP: Senator! Senator! [crosstalk] People before profits, Senator.

VOICEOVER: Half an hour later, a journalist at the press conference raised the same question.

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JOURNALIST: You say repeatedly that everything is on the table, but the supporters of single-payer health care point out that their plan is not on the table.

BAUCUS: That’s true. They do. They’ve make that very clear.

JOURNALIST: And so what do you say to them as they point out that they have significant support, and yet their plan is the one thing that’s not is not on the table at the moment?

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BAUCUS: Well, just to be honest, it’s not on the table�it’s the only thing that’s not�because it cannot pass. It just cannot pass. And I don’t know two or three members of Congress who privately, you know, honestly will tell you that it can pass. I don’t know any member of Congress who could privately, honestly tell you it could pass.

VOICEOVER: There are currently 77 cosponsors of John Conyers’ House Resolution 676, single-payer, Medicare-for-all bill.

BAUCUS: It just can’t pass. Not today. And we can’t squander this opportunity. We can’t spend�can’t waste capital on something that’s just impossible.

VOICEOVER: According to the AP/Yahoo poll of December 2007, 54 percent considered themselves supporters of a single-payer health-care system. On January 28, 2009, the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee presented the findings of a new study to congressional staffers. It demonstrated that a “comprehensive Medicare based single-payer system” would not only provide access to quality care for all US residents, but also create 2.6 million new jobs, infuse $317 billion in new business and public revenues, and add another hundred billion dollars in wages to the US economy. Adding all Americans through an expanded, Medicare-based system would cost an additional $63 billion. The $63 billion is far less than the federal bailout for Citigroup, and less than half the federal bailout for AIG. Russell Mokhiber was one of the eight arrested during the Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday, May 5, for demanding to include a single-payer representative in on the discussion. He was also one of the 500 health-care reform activists at the rally.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER, SINGLEPAYERACTION.ORG: The only thing that’s going to work is save the $400 billion in administrative costs and profits by getting rid of the health-insurance industry, private health-insurance industry, and use that money to insure everyone and to bring everyone in the same system, so every American has a Medicare card when they’re born, and they can go to any doctor, any hospital, no bills, no co-pays, no deductibles, no private insurance companies, and it will relieve a lot of stress on the system. It will stop this business of more than half of bankruptcies being triggered by medical bills. And no longer will we have 20,000 Americans a year die from lack of health insurance. That just doesn’t happen in count Canada and Taiwan and Japan.

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GREGORY JUNEMANN, PRESIDENT, IFPTE: When I started bargaining, when I started as a union representative back in the ’80s, my first negotiations, we barely talked about health care. It was just presumed the employer would pay it. As we went on through the ’80s, then we were told about the rising costs of health care, and it was blamed on the hospitals. And what we were told was we’ve got this new creation called HMOs. These insurance companies, they’re going to drive down health-care costs. Remember? We all bought into that. And that went on, right? So then we find out that insurance companies are really the problem. Up until last weekend, when I saw something in the paper that said don’t worry about it now, because a conglomeration of health-insurance companies and major hospitals and maybe the AMA [American Medical Association] were all going to get together and voluntarily drive down health-insurance costs, right?

CROWD: Right.

JUNEMANN: Does anybody think that that’s going to happen?

CROWD: No.

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BAUCUS: I think everything is going to stay on the table, but big portions will be modified and sculpt. One example is the public option. You know, that’s a hot button. And I do suspect a version will be there. Now, by saying that, I don’t want to frighten people, particularly on the industry side, say, “Oh-oh, here they go. Baucus has said public options,” and, you know, the deal is off. All I’m saying is there are ways to skin a cat, there are ways to find solutions, there are ways, I think, to do this, ultimately, in a way that’s acceptable.

RITTER: Politicians have to stop taking money from the insurance companies, and right now they’re saying it’s not politically feasible because they’re still taking money from that big industrial-medical complex, from pharmaceuticals and insurance companies.

LINDA ALLISON: My name’s Linda Allison. I work for one of the large corporations here. But I talk to a lot of people about health care. My question is: so many people go bankrupt using their credit cards to pay for health care. Why have they taken single-payer off the plate? And why is Senator Baucus on the Finance Committee discussing health care when he has received so much money from the pharmaceutical companies? Isn’t it a conflict of interest?