Political Diagnosis: Single-Payer Advocates Get Hearing; Sen. Kennedy's Bill Makes the Rounds; Obama and the Common Ground Fail; Time to Repeal Hyde Amendment ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — June 9, 2009

President Obama is taking the health care debate to the people (starting with Saturday’s weekly radio address, which irked Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley. And it looks like there could be a major shift over taxing employer-sponsored health insurance (more on what that means). In other news …

The single-payer model will finally get some attention on Wednesday when the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee of the House Education & Labor Committee holds a hearing titled “Examining the Single Payer Health Care Option.” The hearing starts at 10:30 a.m. in 2175 Rayburn House Office Building. It’s open to the public, but you’ll have to get there early to get a seat.

A story in the Washington Post this past weekend portrayed single-payer advocates as a thorn in Obama’s side. Dan Eggen writes:

The White House and Democratic leaders have made clear there is no chance that Congress will adopt a single-payer approach — named for the idea that a single government-backed insurance plan would pay for all Americans’ medical costs — because it is too radical a change.

That has not dissuaded single-payer activists, who have spent months hounding Democratic lawmakers and organizing demonstrations, including one that resulted in 13 arrests at a Senate hearing last month. The offensive continues this weekend with plans to swamp a series of “house parties” on health care hosted by Organizing for America, an Obama-backed project at the Democratic National Committee.

The movement poses both an opportunity and a challenge for Obama, who is able to position himself as a centrist by opposing a single-payer plan but who risks angering a vocal part of the Democratic base.

“Obama is really the one who is puzzling to us,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, a union that has been leading many of the single-payer protests. “We were all supporters of him. . . . It’s hard to understand how he can expect to rally support around a plan that will leave the big insurance companies in charge and keep hurting patients.”

Plus: The Nation talks with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders about single payer and the various public insurance options now under consideration.

A draft of the health care bill authored by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, is now under review. The bill includes provisions that would guarantee health coverage for all Americans, including government-subsidized premiums for people with incomes up to 500 percent of the poverty level ($110,000 for a family of four). The bill would penalize employers who do not help to provide insurance.

“Though the bill is far from finished, lacks key details and only touches on one of [the] categories of reform, it offers a glimpse into the direction the Democrats hope to take the American healthcare system,” writes Jeffrey Young at The Hill. The bill, Young adds, “is limited to the areas of health insurance coverage and does not touch upon contentious issues such as the creation of a government-run health plan or how to pay for the expected $1 trillion-plus cost of the total package.”

Kennedy is in Massachusetts, undergoing treatment for brain cancer, and his gravitas on the Hill is missed. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, the No. 2 Democrat on the health committee, has taken on the main role, reports The New York Times.

The White House sponsored a women’s health round-table on Friday. Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, took part, representing both NWHN and Raising Women’s Voices, as did Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, and Sabrina Corlette, director of health policy programs at the National Partnership of Women and Families. The White House Briefing Room blog has some (very) lite coverage.

Plus: HealthReform.gov published a summary of why the current healthcare system doesn’t work for women.

In a move that caught pro-choice activists off-guard, Obama named Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), to head the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Kelley is a leading proponent of ‘common ground’ abortion reduction — only CACG’s common ground is at odds with that of Obama,” writes Sarah Posner at TAPPED. “While the administration favors reducing the need for abortion by reducing unintended pregnancies, Kelley has made clear that she seeks instead to reduce access to abortion. That is an extremely disturbing development, especially coming this week in the wake of George Tiller’s assassination.”

Frances Kissling, past president of Catholics for a Free Choice, urges greater oversight on future appointments.

Meanwhile, Loretta Ross, national coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, is also disappointed with Obama positioning himself in the middle of the road. “I believe President Obama should show strong leadership in repealing the Hyde Amendment that prohibits public funding for abortions for poor women,” Ross writes at On the Issues magazine. “This would send a strong signal of support to his allies in the reproductive justice movement and we need his leadership on this issue.”

Ross continues:

In fact, if President Obama helps repeal Hyde, he is merely following in the footsteps of Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, both of whom showed strong support for family planning at one point.

In May 2009 in hyping a controversy over President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame University in Indiana, anti-abortionists incorrectly vilified President Obama for being the most “pro-abortion” president in history.  They conveniently forget Richard Nixon’s and George H.W. Bush’s support for family planning in the 1960s and 1970s. According to research by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, President Nixon pledged his commitment for all family planning methods in a July 18, 1969 message to Congress.

A great piece — go read the rest.

Take Action

National Advocates for Pregnant Women: Urge your senator to vote now to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the division responsible for providing legal advice to the president and key agencies, particularly on matters related to the “War on Terror” and to homeland security.

“Given the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller, something many see as an act of domestic terrorism, it is more important than ever to have someone in that office who understands law enforcement, the appropriate uses of government power to counter terrorism and the centrality of reproductive justice to the lives, health and safety of women and their health care providers,” NAPW said in an email.

Democracy for America: Live chat on healthcare reform with Howard Dean — Tuesday, June 9, at 9 p.m., EST.

2 responses to “Political Diagnosis: Single-Payer Advocates Get Hearing; Sen. Kennedy’s Bill Makes the Rounds; Obama and the Common Ground Fail; Time to Repeal Hyde Amendment …”

  1. When I participated in on of the grassroots health policy groups the Obama administration asked us to do, we all said we wanted single payer insurance. And, there was a physician, several nurse midwives and direct entry midwives there. From what I read of the other groups who met and wrote up their input, they almost all suggested a single payer system, too.

  2. I’ve heard that from other people, too. With Obama himself acknowledging SP would be the way to go if we were building the system from scratch, it’s surprising there wasn’t at least some public discussion earlier on. Maybe if they gave it more time — a year to build the movement — it would have a legitimate chance. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if there isn’t an agreement this year — or if it’s so watered down that we end up right back where we started two/four/six years from now.

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