Single-Payer Healthcare Gets a Vote

By David Swanson

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) has introduced an amendment in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would replace the convoluted please-the-public-and-the-insurance-companies-at-the-same-time healthcare bill with the single-payer plan found in HR 676 and backed by 86 members of Congress. The vote has been delayed beyond Wednesday, support for the measure is growing, people are phoning in constantly, and a whip count is being kept online.

An amendment introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D, Ohio) was passed last week by the House Education and Labor Committee that will allow states to create single-payer systems if the federal government does not. So, if Weiner’s amendment fails, we could still achieve single-payer state by state, and eventually nationally, if we are able to persuade congressional leadership not to strip Kucinich’s amendment out behind the closed doors of a conference committee.

But it is entirely possible that Weiner’s amendment will pass, and even if it does not pass the support it musters will nonetheless serve to improve the bill and maintain a useful public option. Weiner is a supporter of the existing bill and the public option, but clearly sees a value in pushing for something better both as a bargaining position and as an attempt to achieve a solution that we can be more confident would really solve our healthcare crisis. Weiner’s column in the Politico today is worth reading in its entirety. After reading that, please come back here and watch this video of Weiner addressing the concerns of Republicans in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

While Weiner doesn’t say this, I will: Everybody now knows that Republicans will oppose any healthcare bill. Worsening a bill in order to win over a few of them provides not a single person with better healthcare. Republicans are not needed and have nothing to add. But of course to pass healthcare reform you do have to win over all of the Democrats. And are you more likely to do that with a bill that wastes public dollars on an inefficient for-profit system, or with a bill like HR 676 that guarantees significant savings? While HR 676 is an approach that forces congress members to go against the wishes of health insurance and drug companies, the mixed-bag approach allows legitimate criticism of wasting money, and the insurance and drug companies still hate it.

Whichever approach you favor, we’re going to be better off with a significant show of support for single-payer. With it, a useful public option becomes a compromise. Without it, the compromise to win over the worst Democrats has to begin with the current bill and move down from there. So keep the phones ringing.

Americans consistently tell pollsters that they want single-payer. And this is true in Blue Dog districts and Republican districts too. Single-payer is not a tough sell with the public, only with certain Congress members.

Other nations that have public health coverage (government spending on private or public healthcare) provide their people with better care. The U.S. system is ranked 37th by the World Health Organization. The United States is 24th in life expectancy and 29th in reducing infant mortality. Infants who do not survive the U.S. system do not get a chance to enjoy the free market and glory in the absence of socialism.

A single-payer system would cover everyone at all times with no exceptions, allow completely free choice of doctors, invest in preventive care, allow patients and doctors to make their own decisions free of insurance company restrictions, reduce the 30 percent waste in the current system to the 3 percent overhead in Medicare, and create a net gain of 2.6 million jobs, $317 billion in business revenue, and $100 billion in wages. Single-payer is a real economic stimulus, something Washington has been looking for in all the wrong places. Imagine being able to make that argument. We can if we pass Congressman Weiner’s amendment.

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