Baucus to Meet with Single Payer Advocates

Single Payer Action, May 31, 2009
Baucus to Meet with Single Payer Advocates

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

After months of proclaiming that single payer is off the table, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) has invited five key single payer advocates to meet with him in Washington, D.C. this week.

On Wednesday June 3, Senator Baucus will meet with Dr. David Himmelstein, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Oliver Fein, Associate Dean, Cornell Weill Medical School, and President of PNHP, Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, and Geri Jenkins, president of California Nurses Association.

“Bowing to mounting pressure from single payer advocates around the nation, Senator Baucus has asked to meet with some representatives of the single payer movement,” Dr. Himmelstein said. “It’s the thirteen people who braved arrest at Senate Finance Committee hearing, the hundreds of single payer supporters who’ve shadowed Senator Baucus in his home state of Montana, and the thousands who have put pressure other members of Congress who have created this opening. We have no illusions that our discussions alone will persuade Senator Baucus to back a single payer bill. But the meeting is a clear indication that demonstrations and activism can move even our money-corrupted political culture.”

According to a recent analysis by the public interest group Consumer Watchdog, Senator Baucus, the leading architect of health reform in the Congress, has received more campaign contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations than any other current Democratic member of the House or Senate.

According to the report, Senator Baucus received $183,750 from health insurance companies and $229,020 from drug companies in the last two election cycles.

During three recent Senate Finance Committee hearings on health care reform, Baucus invited 41 people to testify — not one of which was a single payer advocate.

This despite the fact that recent polls show that single payer is supported by a majority of Americans, doctors and health economists.

Baucus has been asked repeatedly in recent months to allow a single payer advocate to testify.

He has steadfastly refused.

“We’re keeping our eyes on the prize — enactment of a single payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital health insurance system in the United States,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “We won’t let up until single payer becomes a reality. And sooner or later single payer will become a reality because it’s the only system that is financially viable, that will cover all Americans, and that will end the nightmare of 60 Americans dying every day from lack of health insurance.”

“Senator Baucus has charged us with ‘disruption of Congress,’” said Mokhiber, who is one of thirteen citizens Baucus had arrested for demanding that single payer advocates be given a seat at the table. “But we are charging Baucus with corruption of Congress. We think we have a stronger case. And we hope to win the court case, break through the corrupt barriers in Congress and secure single payer for the American people.”

The next court date for the Baucus 13 is scheduled for June 22 before D.C. Superior Court Judge Harold L. Cushenberry.

1 Response to “Baucus to Meet with Single Payer Advocates”

  1. 1 mlyon01 June 5, 2009 at 12:10 am

    *Report on Meeting with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT, Chair, Senate Finance Committee)*

    by PNHP President Dr. Oliver Fein
    June 3, 2009

    Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, met with single payer representatives today. The meeting had been brokered by Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, author of S. 703, a single payer bill. Besides Senator Sanders, single payer advocates were represented by Marcia Angell, M.D. (former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine), Rose Ann DeMoro (vice president of the AFL-CIO and executive director of the California Nurses Association), Geri Jenkins, R.N. (co-president of the California Nurses Association), David Himmelstein, M.D. (associate professor at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program), and myself (Oliver Fein M.D.) president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

    Senator Baucus led off the meeting by implying that he was not ideologically opposed to single payer. In fact, during the 1993-94 Clinton health reform debate, he had visited Canada and was impressed by their system. He recalled that the Canadian hospital he visited had only one room devoted to billing, whereas the comparably sized hospital in Montana had a whole floor concerned with billing. The problem with single payer was that it was not politically feasible in the present Congress.

    During the 30 minute meeting, we presented a vigorous case for single payer. Our specific asks included holding a full Finance Committee hearing on single payer; requesting a side-by-side Congressional Budget Office (CBO) comparison of single payer with other Congressional health reform bills; and inclusion of a state single payer option (like the Sanders bill 703) in health reform legislation. At the conclusion of the meeting, Senator Baucus said he felt he had made mistake in excluding single from the Finance Committee hearings. However, he thought it was too late to hold hearings now. When Senator Sanders said that the Senate HELP Committee might schedule such a hearing and asked if Senator Baucus would support a joint hearing, Senator Baucus indicated he would think about it. Similarly, he made no commitment to request a CBO comparison of single payer or to include a state single payer option in the Senate Health Reform. Finally, we asked that charges be dropped against the 13 single payer activists, including physicians and nurses, who had been arrested when they tried to offer testimony at the Finance Committee hearings in May. Senator Baucus agreed.

    All the advocates urge continuing pressure on Congress, not only in D.C., but also in their districts and states. Medicare for all, we believe, has the potential to become the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

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