Victory for Greens & other Single-payer supporters

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WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders called the White House's reversal on excluding Single-payer advocates from a March 5 health care policy summit a modest but important victory for universal health care.

The Green Party of the United States is one of several organizations supporting Single-payer health care that urged its members and the public to demand an invitation for advocates of Single-payer/Medicare For All, who until Wednesday evening had been barred from the summit.

"The Obama Administration's reversal proves that if enough Americans speak out for real universal health care, we won't be ignored. Unfortunately, President Obama's welcoming remarks on Thursday showed that he won't stand up to the insurance lobby. He won't admit that the private insurance industry adds nothing of value to our health care system, while greatly increasing health care costs and impeding the delivery of health care," said Mark Dunlea, former chair of Green Party of New York State, currently co-chair of Single Payer New York.

"One of our greatest obstacles is the lack of media coverage for Single-payer, because too many in the media have been subject to pressure by politicians and the HMO-insurance industry, which exercises leverage through advertising contracts and underwriting," added Mr. Dunlea.

On Thursday morning, Green Party members learned that the White House had relented after receiving numerous complaints, and invited two Single-payer advocates: Dr. Oliver Fein, president of Physicians for a National Health Program and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the author and main sponsor of HR 676, legislation for Single-payer program.

Until Dr. Fein and Rep. Conyers were invited, the 120 guests at the meeting included lobbyists for the for-profit insurance industry, as well as members of Congress, including Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, who has declared the Single-payer "off the table." Physicians for a National Health Program, other members of the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, and the National Single Payer Alliance led the call for President Obama to invite Single-payer leaders.

Issues & Answers for the media: facts about Single-payer national health care (also called Medicare For All)

How Single-payer works:

• Everybody in, nobody out: Single-payer covers every American regardless of employment, income, ability to pay, age, and prior medical condition. Right now, about 48 million Americans have no health coverage at all and millions more have inadequate coverage. Under Single-payer, they will all enjoy guaranteed quality health care, including prescriptions.

• In a Single-payer system, no American will face financial ruin because of illness or injury. Private HMOs and health insurance companies raise their profit margin by denying treatment to people with medical emergencies and by denying coverage to those they consider 'high-risk' because of existing health problems, age, low income, etc. In other words, private health insurance is designed to fail people who need health care the most.

• Single-payer will allow Americans to choose which physician, health care provider, and health care facility will treat them.

• Single-payer will cut national health care costs by as much as a third and reduce what working Americans pay for health coverage. Single-payer will be funded at the federal level and administered at the state level. Americans will pay for Single-payer the way we now pay for Social Security, but the amount working Americans will pay will be far less than for private health coverage, because Single-payer eliminates the profit-making insurance and HMO 'middle-men.'

• Single-payer reduces paperwork for physicians and other health professionals, one reason why thousands of MDs, other people working in the health care industry, and medical students have endorsed Single-payer.

• Under Single-payer, physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers would compete to serve the public, raising the quality of health care. Single-payer is a health insurance payment mechanism, not a health care delivery system.

• Health care rationing? All health care plans ration care to some extent. Under private insurance programs, treatment is rationed according to ability to pay for coverage. Under Single-payer, the insurance company profit motive is removed and health care is rationed according to need, with medical emergencies and serious illnesses receiving top priority.

Single-payer and the economy:

• Single-payer makes economic sense. At 3% administrative cost, Medicare (which would be made universal under Single-payer) is highly efficient compared to the 15-30% administrative costs of for-profit insurance.

• Single-payer will boost the ailing US economy and provide relief for businesses large and small, since it will cancel the high expense and administrative burden of employer-based health care benefits.

• Single-payer will relieve municipalities and school boards from having to bear the cost of providing health insurance to employees, allowing responsible officials to reduce their budgets and lower local property taxes.

• Single-payer gives government (and therefore taxpayers) a stake in preventive medicine and promotion of good health habits to keep costs down.

The politics of Single-payer:

Polls have demonstrated popular support for a national health care program that guarantees universal coverage. In 2008, the US Conference of Mayors endorsed Single-payer.

• The US is the only industrial democracy that does not guarantee every citizen health care. Compared to other nations, America has the best medical technology but poor access to medical treatment. Single-payer will correct this scandal.

• The Center for Responsive Politics has documented the millions in campaign money that the insurance industry has given to Democrats and Republicans to maintain their control over health care, with a total of $46,002,881 in insurance lobby contributions in 2008.

• The Green Party endorses Single-payer in its national platform. The Democratic Party endorsed national health insurance in 1948, but removed it from the Democratic platform during the Clinton Administration. The Democratic and Republican parties continue to embrace failed 'market solutions.'

• Barack Obama, before he launched his bid for president, supported Single-payer. Al Gore opposed Single-payer when he ran for president in 2000, but admitted two years later that Single-payer is the best plan. Dennis Kucinich was the only Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 to support Single-payer.

• "Single-payer health care is socialism!" By the same standard, so are public streets, sidewalks, parks, schools, libraries, fire departments, police forces, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and bailouts for ailing Wall Street firms. The principle behind Single-payer is that health care should be a human right, not a commodity that allows powerful corporations that don't actually provide health care (HMOs and insurance companies) to make money.

See also "Single-Payer FAQ" at the Physicians for a National Health Program web site.

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