Our Nation Needs This Balm as Single-Payer Action Surges Forward

Published on Monday, November 02, 2015 by Common Dreams

Rally for healthcare justice at Chicago's "Bean." (Photo: Donna Smith)

Rally for healthcare justice at Chicago's "Bean." (Photo: Donna Smith)

Over the past few days, more than 700 people from all over the country came together for the annual single-payer strategy conference.  This year, we were in Chicago, my hometown,  Of course we shared ideas, successes, concerns, and knowledge about the kind of healthcare reform that might truly give us the best healthcare system in the world through an improved Medicare for all for life model.

The convening groups represented Healthcare-NOW, the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care, One Payer States, and Physicians for a National Health Program.

Leaders from this movement get precious little time to gather face-to-face during the year.  There were scores of nurses from all over the country -- New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and beyond.  There were doctors from all over the place.  And there were those of us who are patients who have been injured (or might be injured) by our aggressively greedy healthcare system.  Labor leaders brought the hopes of their rank and file membership that someday we will actually allow contract bargaining to surround much more than healthcare benefits and costs that have squeezed out other issues like wages, vacation and other leave benefits and so on.

The conference opened with a joint protest at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield building in Chicago.  One of the great moments for me was seeing the medical students passionately calling for changes to their chosen profession.  It gave me hope for the future and the potential for real change.

But the highlight of the conference for me came in something much less quantifiable but much more powerful -- the balm of knowing that this wonderful nation is filled with compassionate, decent people who believe in the promise of our Declaration of Independence in which we read that all men are endowed by their creator of certain unalienable rights, and that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  There can be none of those dearly held rights for Americans when our healthcare system snuffs out any chance for equality and the opportunity to live life to its fullest extent.

We are not enemies of our neighbors, our business owners or our fellow Americans who may hold very different political positions.  When it comes to our unalienable rights, we are one.

On Sunday morning when we convened for the final session, John Lozier of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council called us together.  John reminded us that after Halloween comes the Day of the Dead, and he asked that we silence ourselves -- not an easy task for this many opinionated, wonderful social justice warriors -- and the room grew quiet.  John asked us to remember all of those who have lost the struggle to stay alive in the midst of a cloud of inhumanity that has emboldened those who profit from the pain of others.  I cannot say that it was silent.  Although there was an absence of noise, the energy of compassion swelled in the air.

In those few moments of collective remembrance, the room was filled with a palpable sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves that drives us onward to the day when our healthcare system unites us around healing and health rather than profits and wealth.  I tried to turn my thoughts away to gather myself for the morning's work, but the wonder, comfort and compassion washed over me in waves.  I tried not to weep.  I fought back my tears.  And all at once, I knew why it is not only possible but probable that we will secure the rights we all need to be as free and healthy as our neighbors.  I felt what it might be like to rest in that security and compassion.  And let me say, it was one of my life's "ah ha" moments.  Imagine a society that healed instead of arming itself for the next gun assault our streets.

So, going forward to do the work we envisioned is so much more important than our focus on the healthcare system or other progressive struggles.  It is about who we are as human beings and how we make sure that we can live up to the elegance of the words written in the Declaration and so oft cited by those who would tear us apart for personal gain.  All men, all women, all children are created equal.

Finally, just moments before we needed to part, a dear friend and brilliant woman professor, Lindy Hern, handed me a gift she brought me from her home state of Hawaii.  It is a beautiful little jar of ginger-guava lip balm.  Indeed.  Another balm.  I march on.  We march on.  We will achieve our goal, and soon we will gather in joyous celebration that the years of struggle when we worried about the path forward will wash away, and we will leave our children the promise we hold dear -- a nation that lives up to its earliest bargaining agreement that brought us together almost 240 years ago to believe we are indeed not only deserving of equal rights but endowed with those rights.

Won't you be a part of creating this kind of nation and this kind of world?  Join us.  A better society is coming.  Everybody in, nobody out.  Our battle cry sounds an awful lot like that long ago declaration, and it calls us to action.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donna Smith is the Executive Director of Health Care for All Colorado and the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation. 

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Advocates Needed for May 4 SB 631 Hearing

The Oregon Senate Health Care Committee has scheduled a hearing for SB 631, Michael Dembrow’s 2015 Health Care for All Oregon Act on May 4, 2015. The hearing will be at the Oregon State Capitol,  900 Court St NE, Salem, in Hearing Room A. Please attend to show support for affordable, publicly funded, universal health care.

To help people get to the hearing, HCAO has a carpool page setup. Use this carpool tool to request a ride, or to offer rides.

Click here to join the event on Facebook and invite your friends.


You can help MVHCA as we work for single payer health care by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

MVHCA Presence At the Wellness Fair at the First Alternative Co-ops

On Saturday Jan. 10 Mid-Valley Advocates Shelley Ries, Bobbi Hall, Jim Gore and Max Jones joined other vendors tabling in the Wellness Fair at the First Alternative Co-ops—at the north store in the morning and the south store in the afternoon. Talking to new people about the rally Feb. 11 and the need to provide healthcare for all is always educational, and among others we talked to:   a teacher who reported that over the last 20 years she has seen the health of her students decline sharply; a juggler who favors universal publicly funded health care and hopes to do some juggling at the rally; a vendor who at age 44 is "totally thrilled” because for the first time she has health insurance (under expanded Medicaid) and wishes for others to have it too; a shopper with Lyme disease who has received great care from her naturopath and is excited to have comprehensive health care for all that includes naturopaths as practitioners; a shopper who has seen his employer’s health insurance costs go up even as the deductibles have risen ever higher and cancelled out his annual raises. Let’s all talk to our neighbors about these important issues!
(Roberta Hall)

Help spread the word! Sign up to attend the February 11 rally here.  Share the event on Facebook as well!


Doctors Actually Want Single Payer Healthcare

Doctor Carol Paris, psychiatrist and member of Physicians for a National Health Program, joins us to discuss why a single payer national healthcare system would be preferable to the current system. Become a member & Support TDPS: http://www.davidpakman.com/membership If you liked this clip of The David Pakman Show, please do us a big favor and share it with your friends...

Join us in Salem on February 11 and rally for universal, publicly funded health care. Sign up here.

Join Us at the Philomath Frolic Grand Parade This Saturday, July 12!

Come march with MVHCA this Saturday in the Frolic Grand Parade. It promises
to be a lot of fun! We will hand out flyers announcing our Healthcare Movie
night at their Library on July 24th. This is an important opportunity to
get our message out to Philomath residents!

Meet at 9:30 at Philomath Middle School.  Dagmar Johnson will get there early to get
our line-up designation, so look for our group when you get there.

Parking is available in the east High School parking lot and Clemens
Primary School. Please enter Clemens Primary lot off of 19th St: you will
not be able to park on Applegate in front of the High School. Remember to
drive slowly and watch for children.

We will have a variety of "injury-related" props to wear to illustrate our
theme of "Our health care system is injured - help us fix it!" We will have
our banner, signs,  and a large puppet to carry. So come one and all!

Hope to see you there.


The U.S. Health System Ranks Last Again

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally

By Karen Davis, Kristof Stremikis, David Squires, and Cathy Schoen
The Commonwealth Fund, June 2014

The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity. In this edition of Mirror, Mirror, the United Kingdom ranks first, followed closely by Switzerland.

The most notable way the U.S. differs from other industrialized countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage. Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their medical homes.

More here.


Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates Annual Meeting

Monday, June 23, 7 pm*
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Election of officers (2 year terms)
Tim Roach (Vice-Chair)
Jack Elder (Treasurer)
Ron Green, Chair, and Laurie Labbitt, Secretary, will be completing their second year in those offices.
Reports from Health Care for All Oregon (HCAO) semi-annual meeting
 including polling results from statewide survey of public opinion about health care reform
Outreach Committee summer plans for Philomath Frolic Parade and Benton County Soccer Tournament
Update about social media and grant application through Consumer Voices for Coverage
And special entertainment feature:  Rapper Paul Hochfeld 

 *Come an hour early at 6:00 pm for an orientation to health care reform efforts in Oregon and nation-wide; planned especially for our newest advocates but open to anyone who would like a refresher or a chance to ask questions/raise concerns in a smaller group setting. 

Vermont Worker's Center Executive Director visits Portland!

At the June 6th meeting in Portland, Vermont Workers Center Executive Director, James Haslam, told Health Care for ALL Oregon advocates that supporting workers rights is a lifelong commitment. He encouraged advocates to be very strategic over the long term and reminded them that Martin Luther King urged activists to "move from civil rights to human rights".

Haslam reported that Vermont is now challenged by its biggest legislative struggle: determining the scope of benefits and specifically how their health care plan will be financed. The intent is to present these components to the Vermont legislature in 2015.

Haslam urged advocates to look at the health care system through the lens of the six principles: universality, equity,accountability, transparency, participation, public good, and then to INDICT the health care system for its failures to measure up to these principles.

Oregon's health care champion, Senator Michael Dembrow, joined Haslam in answering numerous questions from participants. He agreed with Haslam that the most important aspect of our efforts is grassroots organizing.

Sen. Dembrow said grassroots organizing is simple...just like Amway. If we have 10 supporters and each goes and talks to 10 more people, and each of them recruits `10 more supporters, and on and on.......soon we will have the 1 million voters it takes to pass our universal, publicly funded health care legislation!! Sen. Dembrow summarized that we need a strong grassroots movement to show the Oregon legislature that HCAO is strong enough to succeed when the legislation is referred to the voters in 2016.

Post-Tour Q & A with Gerald Friedman

Mike Huntington relayed these questions to Gerald Friedman. Clarifications in red are Mike’s.


Q. What’s your opinion about the wisdom of individual states achieving single-payer healthcare rather than working politically to achieve a national single-payer system?
A. With our national government gridlock, states’ efforts are needed even though they may not achieve economies of scale and other benefits of national health insurance. We need to start with a few states in order to match the success of OECD countries in providing the best healthcare to the most people at the least cost.

Q. How can we handle the mechanics of single-payer at the state level? We don’t have the administrative machinery of Medicare to achieve a 2% overhead. (We can’t even build an exchange.)
A. A state single payer plan will be far simpler than the exchanges. Billing could be handled through phone terminals at each provider’s office and healthcare credit cards or smartcards.

Q. What changes should Oregon make for a state-level effort to achieve health care for all Oregon?
A. Get the feds on board regarding Medicare and Medicaid. Learn how the VA is negotiating prices for pharmaceuticals.

Q. Is the co-pay is less likely to prevent the patient from making an appointment and getting needed care than a deductible?
A. Dr. Friedman prefers neither although the co-pay could be administratively simple.

Q. Is there any movement by the people toward single-payer in Massachusetts since healthcare costs are not being controlled by Romney Care?
A. Yes! There is a strong movement for single-payer healthcare in Massachusetts. One third of the legislators (13/40 in the Senate) favors single-payer. Donald Berwick is running for governor, calling for single-payer.

Q. What do you think it will take to achieve a national single-payer system?
A. It will take determination by single-payer supporters. Right now it’s time for the ACA to play itself out.

Q. How can we get around the federal employee benefit plans, federal retirees, and other plans over which the state has no control?
A. We can ignore them if we offer the health plan to everyone in the state.

Q. Are you confident that the assumptions you made in HR 676 (Medicare study) are applicable at the state level?
A. No, they are not.


Q. What kind of taxes would you recommend here in Oregon? (Remember we are one of the few states that does not have a sales tax and that depend heavily on personal income taxes to meet the state’s needs.)
A. A top rate would be 9% but this would be deductible from federal income tax assessment. The top federal tax would be 38% making the total 47%.

Q. What type of taxes might people accept?
A. Rich people will probably favor payroll tax, while businesses and corporations will favor an income tax.

Q. What lessons have we learned from Vermont? Do you think they are applicable to Oregon?
A. Vermont and each state will have to deal with the fact of imposing a very large tax. Vermont’s bill based on health care as a human right was passed but without funding explicitly outlined. Now Vermont is struggling to answer funding questions.

Q. You recommend payroll taxes as a part of the formula to finance a single payer plan but with different levels of tax at different income levels. Would the employers match the payroll tax paid by employees? Would large and small employers pay the same percentage?
A. Yes, but in reality both the employer contribution and the employee contribution come from the employee as part of the negotiated salary/benefits package. All payroll taxes are really from the employee. Any amount of payroll tax paid by the employer represents foregone wages negotiated away from employees. Workers wages have been relatively flat over the past twenty years as US business productivity and CEO incomes have dramatically risen. -- Mike Huntington.

Q. How would a single-payer system save money for a small business, that is, one with 50 or fewer employees?
A. A business owner would have personal savings because of reduced or eliminated insurance premiums. Business would increase because consumers would have more money. Employees would be healthier, more productive and reliable. There would be a decreased payroll tax. Recruiting employees would be easier. Even if a business does not qualify for or take advantage of a tax credit through the ACA or does not offer health insurance to its employees (the owner must offer health insurance to employees if the business pays for the owner’s policy) the owner as an individual will save money under a single payer system like everyone else. Everyone else will have more money to spend because they will be paying less for health care. -- Mike Huntington.

Q. What happens to the liability of corporations that have guaranteed future health insurance to retired employees?
A. Corporations (especially multistate corporations) will be relieved of their liability and should jump at the chance to do so.

Q. A tax on financial transactions (“Tobin tax”) should be supported by those who are concerned about stability in the economy. What are some of these groups, and are they actively seeking a Tobin tax right now?
A. National Nurses United and the progressive Caucus of Congress led by Keith Ellison of Minnesota support a Tobin tax. (In other words, liberals and labor.)

Q. Are there financial/cost studies available that a non-financial person can see and understand regarding how or whether universal healthcare payment is viable?
A. Yes. Go to the national PNHP website and enter Gerald Friedman in the search window. Also go to dollarsandsense.org for a two-page summary by Dr. Friedman.


Q. What is rent-seeking?
A. It is making a monopoly out of business to increase one’s profits. Examples are big Pharma’s ever-greening of drug patents; also hospitals and insurance companies buying up physician practices.

Q. Do you expect the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals, and medical equipment makers to argue against a single payer system? Are they going to do this right now, do you think?
A. Not now but later, yes, these companies will pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into a media campaign opposing any single-payer proposal that appears to pose a threat to them.

Another Green Flag for Single Payer

Reflections on the VA Scandal

KevinMD — Dr. Kevin Pho — the popular physician blogger, suggests that single-payer advocates reevaluate the single-payer idea in light of the scandal now unfolding within the Veterans Health Administration. He calls the scandal “a red flag for those who want a national single-payer system in the United States.”

While his thoughtful essay teases out crucial details hidden in the mainstream discussion over the failures at the VA health system, the conclusion he draws seems to point in a direction opposite from the observations he makes...

It is true that government austerity programs — programs to reduce taxes upon the wealthy that we’ve seen across the world and over several recent decades — have gutted a panoply social programs. Like millions of recipients of public health and safety-net programs worldwide, VA patients (and caregivers) have suffered the consequences of austerity...

Right-wing ideologues assert that “the government” is the enemy of “the public” — for in their view, there is no social or personal issue that the profit motive can’t fix.

Some leading Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, along with media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, are seizing on the VA scandal to call for the privatization or “voucherization” of the VA. Others, including the Obama administration, have called for expanding the ability of veterans to use VA resources to purchase their care privately, outside the VA system. This proposal moves in the direction of weakening the VA’s system of integrated care, and would in effect facilitate the VA’s privatization down the road.

Yet the starting point for all sides in the debate over the VA scandal is the remarkable idea that every veteran deserves ready access to comprehensive health care, without a personal financial burden. It is significant that public funding for veterans’ health care is assumed. The idea that all the patients in the system deserve care — that no one deserves to be left out — is also assumed.

It is further significant Dr. Pho (and many others) see so clearly that the fundamental problem at the VA amounts to underfunding. True to form as a blogger, KevinMD traces the contours of the mainstream debate from a doctor’s point of view. In doing so he helps show that within the establishment an important shift is under way.

It may well turn out that the VA scandal, rather than constituting a red flag for single-payer advocates, amounts to a green flag for advocates to step up their drive for a publicly financed, publicly accountable health system – a nonprofit system that puts patients first.

Full article here.

Single-Payer Advocates Hit Capitol With New Sense Of Reality

Advocates for a single-payer “Medicare for all” health system are fanning out across Capitol Hill this week, lobbying members of Congress.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

But years of mostly fruitless struggles – and watching the intense opposition to the much less sweeping Affordable Care Act – appears to have left them with a much more clear-eyed view of what it will take for them to accomplish their goal.

“This is tough stuff,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., told a roundtable of advocates he convened in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. “Single-payer health care bills – it ain’t going to take place here in Washington. I suspect it’s going to take place, as it did in Canada, with a state [Saskatchewan] going forward. I hope it will be my state.”

Indeed, Vermont in 2011 passed legislation that would make it the first state to create its own single-payer system, called “Green Mountain Care.” The experiment is set to launch in 2017, the first year that’s allowed under the Affordable Care Act. But key decisions about exactly how the plan would work, in particular how it would be financed, have yet to be made.

Meanwhile, those who have been pushing for a system that would effectively end private insurance say there’s no question they have the facts on their side.

“What we know about single-payer has zero to do with the merits,” said Robert Weissman of Public Citizen, referring to widespread charges by opponents that single payer systems are inefficient and can deny care. “We have proven alternatives in every other industrialized country in the world – better outcomes at less cost.”

More here.

AWESOME! 2 Talks by Gerald Friedman, PhD, Economist , UMass.-Amherst

Reception for Dr. Friedman

Number of tickets


May 16, Gerald Friedman, PhD, Economist , University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Gerald Friedman, PhD, Economist , University of Massachusetts-Amherst will tour Oregon mid-May, speaking to health care practitioners, business leaders , health care activists and other interested persons in Pendleton, La Grande, Eugene, Ashland, Corvallis, Bend and Portland.

Here is a recorded 5 minute concise message from Gerald Friedman in a May 9 interview by KLCC in Eugene.

The Oregon tour is sponsored by Physicans for National Health Program , Oregon chapters: Health Care for ALL Oregon, and Main Street Alliance of Oregon.

At noon, Friday, May 16 in Corvallis, Dr. Friedman will talk about U.S. Health Care in comparison to health care systems in other developed countries at OSU Hallie Ford Center, room 115, Campus Way and 26th St. Center for Global Health, OSU College of Health and Human Services, and The Hundere Foundation, OSU College of Liberal Art are co-sponsors.
At 7 p.m., May 16 in Corvallis, Dr. Friedman’s talk “Best Health Care?”, will focus on can we afford health care for ALL at Dennis Hall ,First Presbyterian Church, 9th and Monroe. Participants are encouraged to bring their questions.Physicians for National Health Program, Corvallis chapter and Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates are also co-sponsoring the OSU and Dennis Hall events.

Both presentations are free and open to the public.Immediately following the presentation in Dennis Hall, a reception will provide opportunities for participants to talk with Dr. Friedman. Tickets for the reception are $15 and tickets are available through MVHCA website (see below) and at WineStyles and Grass Roots Book Store in Corvallis.

The recent fiscal study by Dr. Friedman reports that upgrading the nation’s Medicare program and expanding it to cover people of all ages would yield over half-trillion dollars in efficiency savings its first year of operation, enough to pay for high quality comprehensive benefits for all residents of the United States at a lower cost to most individuals, families and businesses.

Dr.Friedman’s study is based on analysis of HR 676, a bill sponsored by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, extending Medicare to all US residents within a single risk pool, frequently described as a “single payer”.  The study centers on the nation’s health insurance system, where competition among private payers leads to administrative redundancy which increases costs without improving health.

In addition to Dr. Friedman’s study of HR676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for ALL, Dr. Friedman has published four state studies of single risk pool health systems.