Single Payer Advocates Pressure Wyden

Sen. Ron Wyden is part of a stonewalling group of Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee who refuse to acknowledge public polls in favor of single payer and a public option

June 24, 2009 -- Close to 100 people rallied for single payer healthcare today on the steps of the Federal Building in downtown Portland to deliver Sen. Ron Wyden a message: They want change, not compromise.

Today’s rally organized by Jobs with Justice was part of a series of demonstrations and calls to action taking place this week by several different groups aimed at putting pressure on Wyden to reconsider a single payer health plan or at least a public health plan option. 

Wyden has done neither, though he says he’ll support a public option if his own plan doesn’t succeed. He sits on the powerful Senate Finance Committee where debate on a single payer health plan has been completely shut out and a revised draft legislative outlined last week did not include a Medicare-like public health plan option.
But a House version of a similar bill does include the option to buy into a plan administered by the government.
President Barack Obama supports a government-run health plan option – which has quickly turned into the most contentious part of national reform efforts – but he signaled yesterday that it wasn’t a deal breaker. He said he wouldn’t veto a bill that did not include it.
“The public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies,” Obama told reporters at a White House press conference Tuesday. “For us to be able to say, here's a public option that's not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.”
As Republicans and a group of a dozen or so conservative Democrats decry initial healthcare proposals as too expensive, attention is once again swinging toward Sen. Wyden’s Healthy Americans Act, which represents the most compromise and bi-partisan support. Mainly that’s because it doesn’t include a public option.
The Wall Street Journal featured an interview with Wyden over the weekend. In it, Wyden takes a page from the Republican playbook when he says, “People don't want the government in the driver's seat . . . They don't want the decisions (about their treatment) made in Capitol hearing rooms with a bunch of legislators in dark suits."
Obama had an answer, and it involved the industry’s own opposition. “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care,” Obama said. “If they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.”
Dana Welty, RN, a critical care nurse at OHSU, came to the rally to send Wyden a message.
“We’re out here advocating for single payer and to get Wyden to do the right thing and listen to doctors, nurses and patients and not just insurance companies and people with money,” Welty said.
Several recent polls show vast support for the public option. The most recent New York Times, CBS News poll out of close to 900 people surveyed found 72 percent supported a government-administered insurance plan – something like Medicare for those under age 65.
Welty said as a nurse, she sees first hand the devastating affect of our failed healthcare system.
“The numbers we talk about, the 50 million people without insurance and the 18,000 people who die every year because they don’t insurance, they come in to where I work,” Welty said. “They are sick and they die right in front of me where I work. Sometimes literally they die in our arms. The situation we’re in is personal to me, it affects me every day and it makes me angry.”
Also at today’s rally Dr. Paul Gorman, a physician at OHSU, joined the chorus of doctors who support a single-payer health plan. A poll in April by Physicians for a National Health Program found 42 percent of physicians supported single-payer.
For 25 years, Gorman has worked in various healthcare settings. “I’m here today because decades of market manipulation trying to improve the situation has only made things worse,” Gorman said.
He pointed to infant mortality in the US that ranked 12th in the world in 1960 and now ranks 34th. “I’m here today because I’m a proud American and we can do better,” he said. “We’re not here because of a healthcare crisis but a health insurance crisis.”
The rally ended with a march to Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon. According to, Blue Cross/Blue Shield is among Wyden’s top 5 contributors over the past five years, pitching in more than $50,000 into his election war chest. Wyden, however, was not among the top 10 Senators to receive healthcare lobbying dollars
For an audio version of this story from KBOO Radio 90.7 FM click here.
For a copy of the revised draft legislation outline, absent a public health plan option, click here.

Take Action 

Call Wyden’s office in Portland at (503) 326-7525, in Washington DC at (202) 224-5244, in Eugene at (541) 431-0229, in La Grande at (541) 962-7691, in Medford at (541) 858-5122, in Bend at (541) 330-9142, and Salem (503) 589-4555.
If you’re a physician, consider joining Physicians for a National Health Program.
News source: 


Healthcare for America Now! (HCAN) is not a single payer advocate organization. Rather it is an advocate for a private health insurance system with a public plan option, along lines similar to President Obama's. Join them if that's what you support, but not if you want to advocate directly for single payer / Medicare for All. Some people feel that HCAN chose its name deliberately to be confused with the single payer advocacy group Healthcare NOW! Whether that is fair or not, their name choice has had that effect, apparently including David Rosenfeld/The Lund Report here. If you really want to support single payer, do NOT join HCAN. Rather, join Healthcare NOW! Also, PNHP is not just open to doctors as members. More importantly, PNHP's website along with Healthcare NOW!'s are key sources of detailed information about single payer, HR 676 "Improved and Expanded Medicare for All," comparative data with other countries, and critiques of both the current non-system and the limits of approaches like Ron Wyden's or various the public plan options being continually floated and revised. Anyone interested in educating themselves about single payer/Medicare for All and improving their ability to advocate for it should spend time on the PNHP website, and Healthcare NOW!'s. Another single payer advocacy group one can join is Progressive Democrats of America (which means small 'd' democrats, you don't have to be a partisan Democrat or support them to join). Oregon chapters are seeking to revitalize themselves.

Submitted by Ruppert Reinstadler on June 25, 2009 Where does the guy in the single payer article come up with the “42% of physicians support a single payer system”? While I admit that I do not know the exact number (I doubt that anyone does), I would be willing to bet that it’s not near that high. I think that this is another one of those numbers that proponents like to throw around – like insurance carriers charge 30% for administration. I know a lot of doctors and not one of them supports a single payer system. They realize that it can only lead to rationing and government oversight of their patients.

When you click on the link embedded in the article about the physician poll you'll see it comes from PNHP. Also, for the record I understand the position of HCAN and listed it here for readers to make their own choices on what organizations to support. I also understand there is a big difference between single-payer and the public option, but at this point the public option represents a compromise to single-payer (a single-payer option, if you will) so that's why the ideas are lumped together in this article.

I support a public plan, but something dramatically different than what has been suggested. To be beneficial, a public plan must pursue its own aggressive reform of the delivery system, providers on salary, expanded privileges for lower cost professionals, operation of primary care centers as fixed cost centers removed from insurance models, competitive bidding of specialty services, explicit control of capital and technology spending, global budget constraints (Unfortunately you cannot get your heart transplant because there is no more money left in the budget). I do not support a public plan that is just an expanded Medicare or Medicaid effort as both of these programs have their own problems that have been masked by unaccountable levels of cost shifting to the private sector and provide little structural reform. Tend to think a large leverage point for reform must be a migration from defined benefits to defined contribution from all traditional sources of financing. Let the sources of funds, place their own conditions (possibly with some boundaries) on the terms of financing. The public plan must threaten the private sector by providing great services at dramatically improved value. This is not just a game about finding more money to pay for status quo. If the public plan is wonderfully successful, people will migrate to it of their own free will, and not because some third party thinks it is the way life should be.

Re: State based co-ops Has the possibility of being an excellent direction to usual the details are critical. Would a co-op be able to pursue a "self funded" model of insurance? Would a co-op be able to form its own community based primary care clinics? Would a co-op be able to position itself as approving or disapproving their community's hospital budget? Would a co-op be able to bid the specialty care of its members? What would be the nature of the affected provider community to the co-op? What exactly are the powers and limitations of powers of the co-op? I know...anything that Wyden or others wish to assume.