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Life Arts    H2'ed 8/2/10

Healthcare NOW's Katie Robbins Isn't Giving Up on Universal Coverage

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My guest today is Katie Robbins, of Healthcare NOW. Welcome to OpEdNews, Katie. The health care bill, for better or worse, has been passed with no universal health care, robust public option or public option of any kind. But Healthcare NOW has not thrown in the towel. Why not? What are you up to now?

Thanks so much for inviting me. It's great to have an opportunity to discuss this with you and your readers.

The new health law tinkers around the edges of our failed health care system. As long as we have private insurance in the mix, we will continue to see millions of people uninsured, tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and bankruptcies, poor health outcomes, more bureaucracy, corporate greed, and the world's most expensive health care system get more expensive.

Healthcare NOW seeks to support and grow the movement for health justice based on the merits of single-payer financing which will ensure that everyone can access the health care they need without rationing by ability to pay. Some folks see the road to single-payer through a public option, but Healthcare NOW seeks to build a movement that clearly demands a universal, equitable, and publicly accountable health system with everybody in and nobody left out. People don't want a choice of public or private insurance plans; they really want their choice of doctors and hospitals much like the choice available to people on Medicare.

Medicare, which just celebrated its 45th anniversary, is the social insurance model we need to improve and expand to meet the human right to health care in this country. This week, single-payer activists from coast to coast organized dozens of events celebrating Medicare's birthday, including a dance party for Medicare in New York City.

This anniversary holds special weight because of the formation of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, aka the Deficit Commission, which is looking to recommend cuts to Medicare and Social Security as soon as this December. In response, Healthcare NOW is urging Members of Congress and Federal Candidates to take a pledge declaring that they will protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by taking them off the table of the Deficit Commission. The pledge also calls for a single-payer, Improved Medicare for All System (HR 676) to go back up for national discussion.

If these folks are serious about reducing the deficit, they should look to the kind of cost controls a single-payer system can provide. Hundreds of billions can be saved by negotiating the purchase of prescription drugs and medical equipment, along with the elimination of the waste of the private insurance companies. Of course, cutting the military budget and taxing the wealthy should also be included in any discussion on reducing the deficit, but these folks are set on cutting Social Security and Medicare. That's why Healthcare NOW launched a new (tongue in cheek)campaign"Hands off our Medicare!" You can find out more at It's time to be as loud as possible to stop these cuts. Our most important social safety net programs are in serious danger. We must protect the successful social insurance programs we do have, so we can continue to expand and improve them in the future.

You bring up a good point. We continue to spend heedlessly on the military and don't think twice about bailouts and tax cuts for the rich, but Social Security is always being threatened and the huge savings and benefits that a universal health care system would bring are ignored. Are you taking the fight directly to the public, since Congress and the President have been pretty deaf to the allure of single-payer?

Actually, instead of being deaf to single-payer, I think that Congress, the President, and other opponents to passing single-payer at this time, have to continue to silence the demand for single-payer health care among other progressive demands.

First of all, we as a nation are faced with the century long propaganda war largely represented with the corporate driven talking points charging supporters of national health insurance with wanting a "socialist take over" of our health care system. We fight the same monied interests today as we did every time a national health insurance plan has been proposed seriously in the nation's history yet polling continues to show that single-payer health care is supported by a majority of the public, nurses, and physicians.

In addition, blatant lies are used to bury support for single-payer and progressive solutions. A recent example of this tactic can be found in the skewed results of a series of "town meetings" organized by a private company, AmericaSpeaks, funded by the Peter Peterson Foundation. Peterson is a well known opponent of social security and has been gunning for its privatization for decades.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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