Letter: Anti-single-payer writer on staff at Koch-financed outfit

By Letters To The Editor | February 1, 2018 at 9:44 am I have a question about the opinion piece on the California single-payer initiative, “California can’t afford single-payer health care fantasy,” by Sally C. Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute. To what extent should newspapers reveal the funding of their guest columnists? While the Pacific Research Institute sounds like a neutral observer, an inquiring mind can quickly learn it is financed by the Koch Brothers, among others. (Check out en.wikipedia.org, political activities of the Koch brothers.) Single-payer would redirect all these flows into one large, efficient insurance pool (also fed by Medi-Cal and Medicare funds). More? John M. LeeWalnut Creek Submit your letter to the editor via this formLetters to the Editor Continue Reading

Jimmy Carter Calls for Single Payer

Jimmy Carter has always been a good man. But he only became a liberal icon during a post-presidency that saw the Democratic Party move steadily right on a host of fundamental issues on which the party once led. Remember that Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and California Governor Jerry Brown challenged Carter in the 1980 Democratic primaries because they believed that Carter was too cautious on those issues—including health-care reform. To be clear, even when he served as a moderate Democratic president, Carter was more progressive on many issues than a good number of today’s Democratic “leaders.” The 39th president argued in 1980 for enactment of “an affordable national health plan that will improve Medicare for the elderly, extend protection against catastrophic medical expenses to all of us, improve health coverage for the poor, and provide special benefits to expectant mothers and children in the first years of life.” But Kennedy and others wanted Carter to go further and faster. Now Carter is there. Last Sunday, he spoke about the inevitability of a single-payer health-care system. Carter is not some radical change agent but rather a practical political thinker who sees both the logic and the necessity of a “Medicare for All” response to the health-care challenges that America faces today and that Republicans are determined to make dramatically worse in the future. Democrats remain divided on the question of whether to go all-in for “Medicare for All”—as Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines attempted to highlight this week by proposing an insincere amendment backing a version of single payer. Daines, a right-wing provocateur, is not a supporter of real reform; he simply wanted to get progressive Democrats and their more moderate colleagues wrangling with one another over health-care reform. His move was foiled by supporters of single payer, led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who Continue Reading

How to Revive the Fight for Single-Payer

When the media frenzy subsides and Republicans run out of scare stories, the country will be faced with the most important question about Obamacare: Can it deliver what it promised? Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a new business model is rapidly emerging in the medical-industrial complex that, in theory, can dramatically reduce the inflated costs of healthcare while serving everyone—rich and poor, healthy and sick. But the reformed system will also still rely on the market competition of profit-making enterprises, including insurance companies. A lot of liberal Democrats, though they voted for Obama’s bill, remain skeptical. “In the long arc of healthcare reform, I think [the ACA] will ultimately fail, because we are trying to put business-model methods into the healthcare system,” said Washington Representative Jim McDermott. “We’re not making refrigerators. We’re dealing with human beings, who are way more complicated than refrigerators on an assembly line.” I turned to the Seattle congressman for a candid assessment because he’s the third-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee and has been an advocate of single-payer healthcare for decades. Plus, he’s a doctor. The business transformation under way in healthcare involves the consolidation of hospitals, doctors and insurance companies in freestanding “integrated delivery systems”—nonprofit and profit-seeking—that will have the operating scope and power to eliminate duplications and waste and hold down costs, especially the incomes of primary-care doctors. Major hospitals are buying up other hospitals and private practices, and they’re hiring younger doctors as salaried employees. An  American Medical Association survey in 2012 found that a majority of doctors under 40 are employees, no longer independent practitioners. “The medical-industrial complex is putting itself together so that the docs Continue Reading

The California Senate Just Passed Single-Payer Health Care

If health care is a right—and it is—the only honest response to the current crisis is the single-payer “Medicare for All” reform that would bring the United States in line with humane and responsible countries worldwide. It is unfortunate that Donald Trump, who once seemed to recognize the logic of single payer, has aligned himself with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s scheme to make health a privilege rather than a right—and to use a “reform” of the Affordable Care Act as a vehicle to reward wealthy campaign donors with tax cuts and sweetheart deals. The debate in Washington is so cruel and unusual that it is easy to imagine that the cause of single payer must be doomed in America. Not so. The movement for single payer is for real, and it’s winning in California. The state Senate voted 23 to 14 on Thursday in favor of SB 562, a single-payer proposal that would guarantee universal health care to all Californians. “What we did today was really approve the concept of a single-payer system in California,” declared state Senator Ricardo Lara, a key advocate for the bill, following the vote. “California Senators have sent an unmistakable message today to every Californian and people across the nation,” declared RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, which led the fight for the “Healthy California Act.” “We can act to end the nightmare of families who live in fear of getting sick and unable to get the care they need due to the enormous cost,” DeMoro continued. “We’ve shown that healthcare is not only a humanitarian imperative for the nation, it is politically feasible, and it is even the fiscally responsible step to take.” That’s true. According to a review of a new NNU-sponsored study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “SB 562 Continue Reading

‘Single Payer Is a Rational Health-Care System’: An Exclusive Interview With Bernie Sanders on His ‘Medicare for All’ Plan

Bernie Sanders has for decades argued that the United States must establish a single-payer health-care system that provides the guarantee of care for all while controlling costs—what he calls a “Medicare for All” structure. So it came as no surprise that the senator from Vermont made single payer central to his 2016 presidential bid. What is striking, Now that the campaign has finished, however, what is striking is the burgeoning interest on the part of prominent Democrats in a reform that was once considered “too bold.” As Sanders prepared to introduce a detailed “Medicare for All” bill on Wednesday, Democratic senators from across the country and from across the ideological spectrum—including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—announced that they would be signing on as cosponsors. Unions such as National Nurses United were declaring their enthusiastic support for the measure. Congressman John Conyers, D-Michigan, was cheering on his longtime ally’s Senate proposal, while celebrating a surge in support for his own single-payer legislation in the House. And media coverage, while still too dismissive of real reform and too obsessed with disputes over the direction of the Democratic Party, afforded the plan dramatically more attention than previous efforts. The Nation sat down with Sanders in his Capitol Hill office as he was preparing his legislation and asked him to explain why single payer is suddenly being embraced by top Democrats, and why so many Americans are expressing interest in going big when it comes to issues of health-care access and affordability. The Nation: Why do you think single payer is gaining so much traction at this point? Your campaign certainly increased interest in the movement for a “Medicare for All” reform. But there’s more to it than that, Continue Reading

Cuomo backs federal single-payer health care system — and even says he’d approve it on a state level

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo on Monday became the latest potential 2020 presidential candidate to come out in support of a federal single-payer health care system. "I think that would be a good idea," Cuomo said when asked about the issue on WNYC public radio "Brian Lehrer Show," because he fears the Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare are far from over. "I think we're in the eye of the storm, where it's apparently quiet right now on health care," he said. "I think the back half of the storm is going to come around. I think they're going to move on health care reform again and there'll be a repeal of Obamacare because that's essential to the extreme conservatives." The issue of single-payer health care is expected to be an issue in the 2020 presidential race. Potential Democratic candidates like U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts all support a bill to create a single-payer health care system. Cuomo, who has also been mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, for the first time not only said he believes a national program is a good idea, but also that he'd sign a state single-payer health care bill. "If they were to pass it and it was not incongruous with what the federal government would do to us, I think it's a very exciting possibility," the governor said. "But I think it's going to be a federal play." He noted the state's health care system is largely dependent on federal Medicaid funding. "If they turn off that valve or slow that valve, there is no way we're going to be able to make that up in this state no matter what," he added. Meanwhile, Cuomo dismissed criticism that he had potential presidential politics in mind when he recently traveled to the Virgin Islands to survey Hurricane Irma damage and then sent New York state police and National Guard Continue Reading

As Obamacare repeal implodes (again), Democrats prepping for single-payer self-destruction

 A few years ago, an old friend of mine walked into a bar and immediately ran into an attractive male she wouldn't mind talking to. He told her she was smoking and, of course, what woman wouldn't be flattered to hear that? The warm feeling lasted until he pointed at her purse and told her that there was smoke billowing out of her purse.Evidently, at the bar she just left, someone had dropped a cigarette butt into her bag.Of course, it's easy to misread signals; but in the past year, no one has mistaken horror for affection more thoroughly than congressional Democrats. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a single-payer health care bill he calls "Medicare for All," and to date, 15 of his Senate colleagues have signed on as co-sponsors. More: School choice is crucial for African-American students' success More: The 'Make America Great Again' crowd finally turning their backs on Trump Undoubtedly, Sanders think that the failure of two (and counting) Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare means the public is suddenly enamored with single-payer, government-controlled health care. But progressives and their ilk evidently can't remember all the way back to 2010, 2014 and 2016, in which opposition to heavy-handed government-managed health care sent Republicans to Congress in droves and helped elect Donald Trump to the presidency.But thinking these Democratic electoral wipeouts were a result of Americans secretly wanting socialized health care is like Hollywood arguing its terrible summer box office was because "Boss Baby" wasn't showing in enough theaters.It's probably true that voters are skeptical of Republicans' ability to fix the mess that is health care, especially when the party is led by an unpopular president whose knowledge of medical procedures seems to be limited to the plastic surgery performed on television personalities. But the public saying, "I'm not so sure it's a good idea to write and pass a Continue Reading

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand backs Bernie Sanders’ bill for government-run ‘single-payer’ health care

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, often named as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, announced her support on Tuesday for Sen. Bernie Sanders' forthcoming legislation to create a "single-payer," government-run health care system.The New Yorker is among 10 Democratic senators to publicly announce support for the “Medicare-For-All Act of 2017,” a move that that strengthens her progressive bona fides if she were to decide to run in a Democratic presidential primary.Sanders, who generated a huge progressive following during his 2016 presidential campaign, has introduced single-payer health care legislation three times in previous years and has never had a co-sponsor. The bill he will introduce Wednesday includes a provision Gillibrand wrote to allow Americans to buy into a not-for-profit public health insurance plan during the four-year transition period to a single-payer system, a federally administered program that would eliminate the role of private insurers in basic health care coverage.Gillibrand said she'll be "fighting with Bernie" to give "every American access to affordable, good-quality health care.”“As I’ve been traveling around New York, the number one thing I keep hearing from New Yorkers is that people are very worried that their health care is still too expensive,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Under the health care system we have now, too many insurance companies continue to value their profits more than they value the people they are supposed to be helping. It’s time for something better.”In the lead-up to Sanders' bill introduction, other Democrats announced their support in quick succession Tuesday. They include Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. "Let's make healthcare a right, not a luxury," Blumenthal tweeted.Other senators who previously announced their support include a who’s who in Continue Reading

Wisniewski makes case for single-payer health plan

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who has pledged to be New Jersey’s first “transportation governor,” also wants to create the state’s first single-payer healthcare system.In a meeting with the editorial board of The Record on Tuesday, Wisniewski, who is perhaps best known for spearheading the investigation into the Bridgegate scandal, said that such a system — often referred to as "Medicare for all" — would cover all New Jersey residents. He said such a system would drive down the cost of insurance by creating a 15 to 20 percent savings on administrative costs and allowing the state to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.“When you create a single-payer healthcare system where everybody who’s in New Jersey gets healthcare…you create an incentive for people to be in New Jersey, for businesses to locate in New Jersey, to hire New Jersey employees,” Wisniewski said.Single-payer healthcare systems have long been elusive goals for progressives in America, but Wisniewski said the proposal has extra urgency today given the ongoing attempt at the federal level to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.He also said that New Jersey would be at a competitive disadvantage if it didn’t act soon. Despite skepticism over costs, the New York Assembly passed a single-payer healthcare bill last week and the California Legislature is considering a bill to eliminate health insurance companies and provide government-funded healthcare for all.Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a single-payer system on a national scale last year during his bid to become the Democratic candidate for president. Wisniewski served as the New Jersey chair for the Sanders campaign.In a conversation that lasted more than an hour, Wisniewski also laid out his ambitious agenda that includes: Fully funding the existing school funding formula Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour Continue Reading

Some states see opportunity for single-payer health care

As Republicans continue to push reforms reducing the government's role in health care, some opponents are emboldened in their support for the opposite approach, one that would greatly increase government involvement.Progressive politicians and activists see a future in single-payer health care, the term for a government-run health insurance program that would be available to any American. While a Democratic-backed federal bill has no future in the GOP-led Congress, backers have had more success at the state level.On Thursday, Senate Republicans unveiled their plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. By Monday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 22 million fewer people would have health-care coverage by 2026; a similar plan that the House passed was expected to leave 23 million Americans uninsured and increase out-of-pocket costs for the sick and elderly.Following the election of President Trump, Jimmi Kuehn-Boldt of Palm Springs, Calif., began advocating for single-payer health care with the grassroots group Courageous Resistance. At 63, he doesn't expect anything to take effect before he's eligible for Medicare in a little more than a year, but he said he's worried about seeing care for others deteriorate if Republicans are successful. ► Later: Senate leaders delay health care vote, lacking GOP support ► Next: What's to come on health care now that the Senate has punted? The Senate proposal makes any talk of single-payer, either in Washington or Sacramento, "just as important, if not more than before," he said."We've got to see how it's fleshed out in Washington, but we can still move forward here," Kuehn-Boldt said.More than 100 Democrats in the House have signed on to a single-payer bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan called Medicare for All because it would eliminate the current 65-and-older requirement for Medicare. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has talked about introducing his own Continue Reading