My guest today is Dr. Carol Paris, president of PNHP, Physicians for a National Health Plan.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Carol. I read an interesting piece recently: Amid GOP Attacks on Health Care, the Movement for Single Payer Is Growing . Before we discuss the claims made in this article, please tell our readers a little bit about PNHP.
Carol Paris: Hi, Joan. Thank you for inviting me to OpEdNews. PNHP is a single issue organization founded in 1987. Our mission is to advocate for universal, comprehensive, single payer national health insurance. Since that time, the membership has grown to 20,000 physicians and other health professionals. Much of the oft-quoted research about medical bankruptcy and unnecessary deaths due to lack of insurance is the work of PNHP co-founders, Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler.
JB: We've entered uncharted waters one month into the administration of this president. Various institutions are already under attack, including, and especially, Obama's Affordable Care Act. How does PNHP look at this?
CP: Our current view is informed by our past experience. In early 2009, with a newly elected Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, we were denied a "seat at the table" to make a case for Single Payer/Improved Medicare for All. I was personally told that single payer "isn't politically feasible" by my congressman at the time, Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader. This was straight from the Democratic Playbook.
Eight activists, myself included, tried for a "seat at the table" again in May 2009, when Sen. Baucus, then chair of the Senate Finance Committee, invited 41 people to a series of roundtable discussions to discuss reform options but refused to extend an invitation to our single payer spokesperson. We each stood up, asked why single payer wasn't even being considered, and were arrested. (Charges were eventually reduced, requiring only community service.)
By early 2010, we saw the public option horse-traded for the few provisions that the American people are now holding on to with all their might - the elimination of pre-existing conditions and the provision of income-based premium subsidies. Without these, going forward, my own daughter and her family will join the 20 million people who will no longer be able to afford health insurance.