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May 5, 2009 Washington DC - Doctors and other advocates of a national single-payer systemalso known as Improved Medicare for Alldirectly confronted Senators at the Senate Finance Committee roundtable on health reform today.
The single payer advocates wanted to know why single-payer experts were being excluded from the roundtable of fifteen witnesses.
The doctors said that a publicly funded, privately delivered single-payer system is the only solution to the crisis plaguing our nation's non-system of health care. It covers everyone, and contains costs.
"Why isn't single-payer at the table today?" they asked.
Despite polling that shows a clear majority of public and physician support for a single-payer system, Senator Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee has stated on multiple occasions that single-payer is "off the table" of health reform.
Today's round table, the second of three, consists of 15 witnesses with no single-payer advocates.
Doctors and activists representing a coalition of single-payer advocacy organizations including Physicians for a National Health Program, Healthcare-NOW!, Single Payer Action, Private Health Insurance Must Go, the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics, Prosperity Agenda, and Health Care for the Homeless dressed in black in memory of the 22,000 people who die every year due to lack of health insurance.
They spoke out at today's Senate Finance Committee Hearing one after another during the opening comments of the discussion.
"Health insurance administrators are practicing medicine without a medical license," said Dr. Margaret Flowers, Co-Chair of Maryland chapter PNHP. "The result is the suffering and death of thousands of patients for the sake of private profit. The private health insurance industry has a solid grip on patients, providers and legislators. It is time to stand up and declare that health care is a human right."
Much to the frustration of Chairman Baucus, multiple disruptions demanding single-payer be on the table set the tone for the second of three roundtables on Health Reform by the Senate Finance Committee.
"The current discussion on health reform is political theater at its best. Our elected officials are hosting these events to go through the motions of what developing effective national health policy should look like. There is a big difference between getting health policy experts in the room and the witnesses here today who would profit the most from reform. That difference means our hard earned dollars will go to further insurance industry profits, not to guarantee health care to the American people," states Katie Robbins, Assistant National Coordinator of Healthcare-NOW!, representing thousands of citizens in support of single-payer health care.
"It's a pretty spectacular display of raw political power," said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. "The health insurance industry demands that not one of the fifteen people who testified today shall be a single payer advocate. And the industry gets what it wants. It's time for the American people to storm the gates and demand put single payer on the table."
Single-payer is successfully implemented in the United States' own Medicare system providing comprehensive care to the elderly, as well as in many of the best health care systems in the world. A single-payer system as embodied in legislation HR 676 and S 703 would provide guaranteed, quality care to all Americans at the same cost of our current system.