for national healthcare plan
By Karen Martin 7/6/09
Its now or never, for those who support a single-payer health plan in the United States. The Democrats have the majority in both houses of Congress and they have the White House. If our representatives cannot step up, be bold, and give Americans what has been sought for over a century, when will there ever be a national healthcare plan?
Today there are at least 46 million Americans with no health insurance, and even more are under-insured. Approximately 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses because they cannot afford to see a doctor. A recent study revealed that 62 percent of bankruptcies in 2007 were in part due to medical problems. On the business end: GM spends more on healthcare per auto than on steel, while small business owners struggle to keep employees covered.
The healthcare system in the U.S. today spends almost twice as much per person on healthcare than any other country. Our system is flawed: according to the World Health Organization the U.S. ranks 37th in terms of health systems based on rates of infant mortality and life expectancy to name only two indices.
Our current private insurance via employer-provided system is among the worst in the world. Its costly, wasteful, complicated, bureaucratic and cares about profits not people. The latter is evidenced by insurance companies denying applications due to pre-existing conditions by withholding payments as often as possible all in the name of higher profits. Industry leaders are reaping huge fortunes by denying medical claims whenever possible.
SINGLE-PAYER & ITS OPPONENTS
Single-payer is similar to Medicare, which provides healthcare to our seniors 65 and older. HR 676 is a detailed plan to implement a single-payer plan for uninsured Americans. It would cover every American, no denying based on pre-existing conditions, no expensive deductibles or co-pays, all prescription medications will be covered, you choose your own doctors and hospitals, no corporate bureaucrat will come between you and your doctor, those are some of the basic features.
Opponents to the single-payer plan include the AARP, which lobbies against single-payer because the retiree organization makes about a quarter of its money selling insurance through United Healthcare Group, the nations largest for-profit insurance.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has fought against a national healthcare plan for decades. Currently only about 25 percent of doctors belong to the AMA. The AMA pours millions of dollars into lobbying against single-payer plans.
Other groups lobbying against a national healthcare plan: Business Roundtable, Americas Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Lewin Group and parent group United Health Group would go out of business if the U.S. adopts a single-payer plan, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America (PHRMA). If a single-payer plan were adopted it would have the power to negotiate drug prices.
Some of our own politicians gain from fighting single-payer. One of the most significant is Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) who chairs the finance committee, key to any healthcare reform. Sen. Baucus has received more campaign money from health and insurance industry interests than any other member of Congress, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In Northern Michigan, Congressman Bart Stupak is against the single-payer plan (HR 676), and Senator Stabenow seems content with the employer-provided system in place in Michigan.
WHO SUPPORTS SINGLE-PAYER?
According to polls, 76% of Americans polled support a major healthcare overhaul including a single-payer plan. Others who support single-payer in general or HR 676 specifically include: scores of progressive representatives in Congress, the United Auto Workers (UAW), which also represents many state employees, over 20 medical organizations including Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization of 16,000 physicians, six faith organizations, over 45 municipalities and over 465 unions, and many mayors all across the United States.
HOW IT WILL BE FUNDED:
At the individual level, the average American spends about $7,900 per year on healthcare. A national health Insurance plan would require participating members to pay a monthly insurance premium in the form of a new tax (keep in mind Medicare recipients pay a premium). This new Medicare-like system would be stable, affordable, use a sliding scale. Costs would be fair and reasonable at all levels and all would be covered.
In addition, funding options include chatter by the media on rescinding the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest, and assorted sales taxes, such as on soda pop.
Some claim a national healthcare plan would have a total cost (over 10 years) of $1 trillion dollars. To put this in perspective: its estimated that the total bill for the unnecessary Iraq War will reach $3 trillion. Many Americans would prefer healthcare to warfare.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Thus far, single-payer was taken off the table by Senator Max Baucus. Those fighting for a single-payer plan recently marched in Washington D.C., Some activists sat in the hearings held by Senator Baucus, 15 seats were available at the hearing for representation to discuss healthcare reform. These seats were loaded with industry leaders (HMOs, big Pharma, health insurance, etc.). Not one seat was given to proponents of the single-payer plans. In protest, 13 doctors, nurses and others were arrested when they requested a seat at the table to represent single-payer.
The table belongs to the American people; all options belong on our table. Whether you are for or against single-payer plans, it is not democracy when many Americans support a single-payer plan and yet our representatives ignore our voices.
Time is running out; the powerful lobbies are spreading the money around to keep single-payer and even a public option from ever happening; our own leaders ignore our pleas. If we dont achieve major healthcare reform in 2009, we condemn our country to the profiteers of healthcare for generations to come.
Contact the White House at: 202-456-1111 and contact your representatives via Capitol Switchboard at: 202-224-3121
Karen Martin is a retired state worker from the Michigan Department of Human Services. She is the founder of the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace & Justice in Cheboygan.