Health Care: a Better Idea

Last Friday when President Obama vanquished the entire Republican Caucus in question time in Baltimore he said:

“Now, what I said at the State of the Union is what I still believe. If you can show me and if I get confirmation from health care experts, people who know the system and how it works, including doctors and nurses, ways of reducing people’s premiums, covering those who do not have insurance, making it more affordable for small businesses, having insurance reforms that ensure people have insurance even when they’ve got preexisting conditions, that their coverage is not dropped just because they’re sick, that young people right out of college or as they’re entering in the workforce can still get health insurance — if those component parts are things that you care about and want to do, I’m game.”

Outside two doctors were arrested for trying to tell the president a better way to really solve America’s health crisis. The president wants a system that doctors confirm works – well this one is supported by 60% of U.S. doctors. He wants a system that nurses will confirm works. This approach is supported by the National Nurses United – the largest nurses union in the country. And, two-thirds of Americans support their better way.

For more than a year advocates of expanding Medicare so it covers all Americans have been trying to tell the president how to fix health care. They have faxed, emailed, telephoned, visited Washington, attended town hall meetings . . . they’ve even gotten arrested protesting their exclusion at hearings. Even the president’s own doctor, David L. Scheiner, has urged him to adopt a national health care program with Medicare for All at its foundation. In every way they know how they have tried to tell the president.

The president claims he will listen to all ideas. Why will he not listen to the idea with the widest public support?

Back in Baltimore when the president showed the country that the Republicans were straw men putting forward false facts and phony arguments, Dr. Margaret Flowers and Dr. Carol Paris stood outside in the cold. They were holding a sign, responding to the president’s request in the State of the Union that said: “Letting You Know: Medicare for All.”

Dr. Flowers had a packet of materials for the president. It included a letter she wrote to him the night of the State of the Union. When the president said: “if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know,” Dr. Flowers started writing.

The day before the Baltimore event, Dr. Flowers tried to deliver the letter to the White House. They would not take it. So, when the pediatrician heard President Obama would be in her home town she mentioned it to Dr. Paris. Paris immediately agreed to go with Flowers to try and get the information to the president.

In fact, making Medicare available to all Americans would do more than the president is seeking. Unlike any Democratic proposal: it would cover everyone in the United States; truly control costs and not require additional spending by the government by saving at least $400 billion annually wasted by the insurance industry.

On top of all the good it would do for health care in America, a study published in 2009 found that Medicare for All would spur the economy and create jobs. A national single-payer style healthcare reform system would provide a major stimulus for the U.S. economy by creating 2.6 million new jobs, and infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy.

Debating the Republicans was easy. President Obama knew their arguments were based on falsehoods and phony rhetoric. Is he avoiding the advocates of Medicare for All because he knows they are right? Because he knows their arguments are fact-based and not easily dismissed? In 2003 he declared himself “a proponent of a single-payer universal healthcare program.” In fact he used the issue as an excuse to get people to vote Democratic saying: “first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

The health care reform process has fallen apart. It is politically unpopular. It is practically not feasible. It does not confront the urgent health issues facing America.

The approach Dr. Flowers and Dr. Paris are trying to convey to the president is a win, win, win – politically popular especially among doctors and nurses, confronts the critical problems in the American health care crisis and spurs the economy, creates as many jobs as were lost in 2008.

President Obama, there is still time to do the right thing. There is new opportunity with health care in confusion to meet with Dr. Flowers, Dr. Paris and other advocates of Medicare for All and then tell the American public you support the solution the majority of Americans support: Medicare for All. Turn the mess of “insurance reform” into an opportunity for “real” reform.

KEVIN ZEESE is executive director of Prosperity Agenda. He was arrested with the Baucus 8 protesting the exclusion of single payer health care before the Senate Finance Committee.

More Information

Dr. Flowers Open Letter to President Obama responding to the State of the Union can be read at:

The arrest of Dr. Flowers and Dr. Paris outside the Republican Caucus meeting in Baltimore can be viewed at:

President Obama saying he supports single payer health care in 2003 can be viewed at:

Kevin Zeese is an organizer at Popular Resistance.