Thanks to activist pressure, single-payer advocate Oliver Fein, MD, was allowed to participate in the White House health care summit. In his extensive post, Dr. Fein gives an inside account of the summit and lays out some reasons for cautious optimism for those pushing for a single-payer universal health care system.
The major single-payer bill in the House is HR 676. Dr. Fein reports that Senator Bernie Sanders is planning on proposing a counterpart bill in the Senate shortly.
From the Beaver County Blue website:
Thanks to many grassroots activists and physicians who called the White House and threatened to demonstrate outside its gates, I was at the Health Care Summit at the White House on March 5 along with Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). And it was good thing. It meant that the single-payer position was recognized as one pathway to health care reform. It also meant that one of our concerns was present: namely, that any health care reform that includes the for-profit, private health insurance companies will fail to provide universal coverage, will not be able to reduce heath care costs, and will increase the number of underinsured.
It’s important to note that there were others at the summit who are known to be sympathetic to single payer, including some past and present co-sponsors of H.R. 676 and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. (More on Sanders below.)
That said, it is true that the summit was carefully choreographed. The opening plenary featured Travis Ulerick, a 24-year-old firefighter from Dublin, Ind., who had sponsored a “health care community discussion” (house party) in his fire station in December. He read off the names of six other people who had hosted similar house parties who had been invited to participate in the summit.
Ulerick called attention to a booklet, “Report on Health Care Community Discussions,” which was distributed to all summit participants. It focuses on cost, access, quality and system performance as the major problems facing the American health care system. As solutions, it offers creation of a health insurance exchange, reducing prescription drug costs, research and standards to improve quality and efficiency, simplification and information technology, education for wellness and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.
Interestingly, in the middle of the report, there is a box labeled Single-Payer System, which states: “Over one-quarter (27 percent) of the groups discussed the merits of a single-payer system, and the majority of those groups supported this idea. These groups argue that this radical change was a necessary step for reform.”
Read Joel A. Harrison’s article on how U.S. taxpayers aren’t getting what they’re paying despite massive health care spending (from our May/June 2008 issue), and go here for more D&S coverage of health care issues.