Thursday, December 18, 2008

Single Payer Health Care Now!

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders urged Americans to take up President-elect Barack Obama's call for discussion on health care and demand a single-payer national health care program, also called Medicare For All.

Greens said that the current financial crisis is an ideal time to introduce single-payer.

"Businesses have been burdened for decades with the high expense and administrative burden of employer-based health care benefits. Single-payer will alleviate the burden and stimulate the economy. It will also cost working people far less than they now pay for private coverage. Businesses large and small, unions, and all middle- and low-income working Americans will benefit from single-payer," said Sanda Everette, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.

Greens have taken the lead on single-payer in many states. Party leaders Gloria Mattera and Peter LaVenia are co-sponsors of Single Payer New York, Mark Dunlea is one of the organizers, and gp.org webmaster David Doonan manages the group's site (http://singlepayernewyork.org).

"Mr. Obama asks Americans to send their ideas to him about how to fix health care. Now is the time for organizations and Americans who support single-payer to tell the President-elect that single-payer is the only acceptable solution," said Carl Romanelli, former Green candidate for the US Senate and Northeastern Pennsylvania coordinator for the PA single payer movement (http://www.healthcare4allpa.org).

"The greatest danger is that the sense of exhilaration and relief that greeted Mr. Obama's election will turn into acquiescence to his mandate plan for health care reform," added John Battista, MD, Green Party member and Coordinator of the Connecticut Coalition for Universal Health Care. "That's what happened in 1993 after Bill Clinton was elected, setting back the chance for single-payer for more than a decade. Like Mr. Clinton and every Democratic presidential nominee for the past two decades, Mr. Obama would leave the private insurance industry in control of our health care."

"Will Barack Obama stand with the American people and make quality health care a right for all by saying no to for-profit health insurance?" asked Mr. Dunlea, who attended a recent Healthcare Now national gathering in Chicago and proposed placing 20,000 single payer signs at the inauguration. "Or will he allow health insurance companies to continue to make profits by denying consumers access to coverage? Doctors say yes to single-payer, nurses say yes to single-payer, and the American public says yes to single-payer in every poll despite the denials from politicians and the media. Will Mr. Obama say, Yes we can?"

Green Party leaders urged progressive and consumer groups and unions not to repeat mistakes made during the first Clinton term, when many of them dropped their demand for single-payer and endorsed the Clinton 'managed care' plan, which would have herded Americans into coverage under a handful of the largest private insurance companies. President Clinton rejected single-payer, and support for national health insurance was deleted from the Democratic Party platform during the Clinton Administration. As a result, health care reform languished while the number of uncovered Americans grew and even those with coverage have been increasingly denied treatment.

The Obama plan includes similar mandates and attempts to compensate insurance firms and HMOs for heavy regulation by giving them huge subsidies.

"The Obama plan is a scheme to sustain insurance companies and HMOs with our tax dollars. It reciprocates the hundreds of thousands of dollars that these corporations contribute to Democratic candidates every election cycle. Insurance companies and HMOs have a financial interest in excluding 'high risk' people -- the old, the poor, those with prior medical conditions -- and limiting treatment for those who have coverage in order to maximize profits. Why should we pay off insurance companies and HMOs to cover the excluded, when we can save hundreds of billions annually by covering everyone with a single-payer plan?" said Green Party co-chair Jill Bussiere.

Single-payer/Medicare For All would cover all Americans regardless of income, employment, residence, age, or prior medical condition, while allowing choice of health care provider. In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article estimating that Single-Payer could cut health care costs by $350 billion annually (http://www.pnhp.org/publications/nejmadmin.pdf).

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