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Single-Payer Surge - Really?!

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My guest today is Dr. Carol Paris, president of PNHP, Physicians for a National Health Plan.

Dr. Carol Paris, President, PNHP
(Image by PNHP)
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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?

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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.

Jan. 2010, in front of Renaissance Harbor Hotel, where Pres. Obama was speaking to GOP House Issues Conference and where Paris and Dr. Margaret Flowers got arrested for second time
(Image by PNHP)
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Now it is 2017 and the Democrats are telling us, defend the ACA now and we'll get to single payer...later. In my opinion, the Democratic Playbook needs some massive rewriting. PNHP's Playbook is very clear: we will defend the ACA from any "repairs" or repeal that take us backward AND we will use all the tools available to move forward, now, to the only plan that will actually fulfill the President's pledge of more coverage, better benefits, and lower costs: HR676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All.

JB: I like that strategy. May I ask how you plan to bring it about? Also, how helpful was it that universal healthcare was such an important component of Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign?

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March on Wall St. 1.15.17, sign reads: Health Care is a Human Rights [Paris is second from right]
(Image by PNHP)
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CP: PNHP will continue to contribute to research supporting both the economic benefits of a national health program and the social/health benefits. We will continue to educate our medical colleagues by providing speakers for grand rounds at medical centers around the country. Dr. Don McCanne's Quote of the Day is a great way to keep current on the literature and his policy analysis is second to none. Subscription is available for free on our website. Furthermore, our outreach to medical students has gained momentum; we now have SNaHP (Students for a National Health Program) chapters at over 40 medical schools and the number is growing.

Since taking on the role of President of the organization in January, it is clear to me that our members' enthusiasm for active, local, vocal participation in the health reform debate reflects what is happening all around the country. Our members are attending rallies, speaking out at town hall meetings, writing op-eds and letters in their local papers and lobbying their members of Congress to cosponsor HR676 and to encourage Sen. Sanders to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. And we are learning from our junior colleagues how to use social media to amplify our message. We are working collaboratively with other social justice organizations because the fight for universal health care intersects with the fight for racial justice, LGBTQ rights, immigration rights, and reproductive rights, among others.

Senator Sanders' campaign lit the fire and the Republicans' attempts to repeal/replace/repair the ACA is simply adding fuel to this burning desire to join the other developed countries of the world but with a uniquely American solution - expanding our Medicare program to cover everyone in the US and improving the coverage and financing to eliminate any financial barriers to care at the point of service (no co-pays, no deductibles, no co-insurance).

PNHP at the Women's March on Washington [Paris is third from left]
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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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