Southern Politics

In a 4/27 meeting at Atlanta Friends Meeting House, organized by Healthcare Now, Philadelphian Katie Robbins spoke and led a spirited discussion on the state of organizing for Single-Payer healthcare. Vermont is in the lead nation-wide, a bill there being very close to passage but without a funding mechanism as yet. California has twice passed a single payer bill, twice vetoed by former Governor Schwarzcoph… or is that Schwarzenegger? With a new Governor, Jerry Brown, there could be hope in California, though Brown may have succumbed to the lure of born-again fiscal conservativism since his last term.

Katie introduced the acronym PISD (private insurance-induced stress disorder) offering the antidote, National Health Insurance. The situation is one of crisis to which Republicans offer denial and the Democrats tend to go along with their timid party head in the White House. House Bill 676 would expand and improve medicare, improving by eliminating co-pays, deductibles and expanding by eliminating the millions of uninsured by lowering the age requirements to minus 9 months – medicare for all, in a word. Since the situation is in crisis and systemic and what has become known as Obama-care, though bringing some improvements, is ultimately inadequate, we will have this debate again and it is important to have in place some single payer models, hopefully Vermont and/or California, for that discussion, though of course the Canadian, Western European and Australian models didn’t help on the first go-around.

Activist nurses and doctors, responding to the shut-out of single payer advocates in finance committee testimony, forced a small opening by their disruption of the meetings. This small opening still left the insurance industry dominating the debate and resulted in the tepid Obama-care.

HR 676, the United States National Healthcare Act, would basically put the insurance companies out of business. It is estimated that administration costs under the private system is 30% whereas medicare administrative cost is 3%. The nations with single payer also have low admin costs. Estimated saving for this bill are around $400 billion. Funding sources are obviously the bloated military budget, especially Iraq/Afghanistan, and the cap on social security tax which sits at $106,000, for no apparent reason other than that ideologues opposed to social security and medicare want it that way. Katie points out that single payer is a financing mechanism as well as a way to democratize health care. This last point probably helps to explain corporate opposition. It strikes many as strange that corporations oppose single payer since they would experience significant cost saving when no longer responsible for their worker’s health insurance. Being top-down tyrannies, apparently they feel threatened by any form of democracy.

Despite polls that show a healthy majority favor it, despite the cost-savings and improved health effects, single payer has been off the table since the discussion began, considered not politically viable. This says something about our democracy when a policy favored by the majority is considered not viable. It suggests that forces other than the people are who count – but we already knew this.

Tom Ferguson

Tom Ferguson

Tom is a painter, a cartoonist, a musician, a thinker and more. View some of his web sites:

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