The single-payer movement is “alive and well”

From Jerry Policoff:

I was in Philadelphia this weekend at the Healthcare4ALLPA Board meeting and then for the HealthcareNOW national conference. The latter was attended by more than a hundred single-payer activists from about 20 states, and I can happily report that the single-payer movement is alive and well.

The general consensus was that the three states most likely to pass s-p legislation in the foreseeable future were, in order of likelihood, Vermont, California, and Pennsylvania. Vermont has a new governor-elect who campaigned on single-payer, and a legislature that has endorsed the concept and has hired the person who designed the Taiwan s-p system as a consultant. California has twice passed single-payer only to have the bill vetoed by Schwarzenegger both times. The feeling is that Jerry Brown is more likely to sign it. After that the funding mechanism would have to be designed and would then go on the ballot where the voters would have to approve it. Pennsylvania is still regarded as a strong candidate for passage of s-p legislation since this is the only state where it enjoys non-partisan support, and since 68% of the Senators have co-sponsored a resolution that would fund a s-p economic impact study. Democratic House Whip Todd Eachus was one of our biggest obstacles, and he was defeated in his bid for re-election last week. The feeling is that the looming $5 billion budget deficit will force the governor and the legislature to take a closer look at single-payer since it is believed that passing this bill will by itself solve our budget crisis.

Other states with strong s-p movements that are hindered by hostile or disinterested governors or legislatures at the moment include Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Maryland et al.

The news on Election Day for the single-payer movement was actually quite good over-all.

· In Massachusetts a ballot question was on the ballot in 14 districts asking: “Shall the representative from this district be instructed to support legislation that would establish health
care as a human right regardless of age, state of health or employment status, by creating a single payer health insurance system like Medicare that is comprehensive, cost effective, and publicly provided to all residents of Massachusetts?” It passed in all 14 districts with 63.5% of voters (121,883 voters) voting “yes.” A similar resolution in 10 different districts also overwhelmingly passed
in 2008. So much for the myth that Massachusetts residents like their individual mandate healthcare system – the model for the national bill that passed Congress earlier this year.

· Peter Shumlin won in Vermont, so the state has a pro-single-payer governor on top of a large grassroots movement. Sen. Patrick Leahy was re-elected to office and is pro-single-payer; the same holds for Rep. Peter Welch, a co-sponsor of Rep. Conyers’ single-payer bill in Congress, H.R. 676. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of course, is a very outspoken supporter of single-payer Medicare for all.

· Rep. Raul Grijalva won re-election to a fifth term in southern Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. He is the president of the House Progressive Caucus and a strong supporter of single-payer healthcare.

· Neil Abercrombie, who was a co-sponsor of H.R. 676 (the single-payer bill) while he was in Congress, was elected governor of Hawaii. Many of Hawaii’s lawmakers have shown support for single payer.

· Only one of 87 co-sponsors of H.R. 676 (the single-payer bill) was defeated in the general election by a Republican, Rep. Phil Hare of Illinois. Seven other co-sponsors, all Democrats, departed due to death, resignation, defeat in the primary or retirement. Only one of those seats went to a Republican.

On the down side:
· Sen. Russ Feingold, who ran on his support for the Obama health plan but is also a single-payer supporter, lost his Senate race in Wisconsin to a Republican.

· The Minnesota single-payer movement was set back by a Republican takeover of the state Legislature. The governor’s race, which includes a pro-single-payer candidate, is still too close to call and is undergoing a recount.

· Rick Scott of Columbia/HCA fame, which paid a $1 billion fine for Medicare fraud, won the governor’s race in Florida. Scott opposes any reform that does not enrich the special interests.

Jerry Policoff

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