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Single-Payer is Not a Priority Even for Democrats Who Say They Support Single-Payer

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Photo by David Drexler | CC BY 2.0

The Democrats will not lead the charge for single payer in the United States.

Only the people, from the ground up, will lead.

But wait, you say.

Aren’t there 113 members in the House who have signed on to HR 676, the House single payer bill?

Yes, indeed.

But have they signed on because a) they want single payer to become law in the United States?

Or have they signed on because b) they are being bombarded by citizens back home who are demanding it and the Democrats are just throwing their demanding citizens a bone?

Looks like the right answer is – b for bone.

Frank Kirkwood is a single payer activist in Pittsburgh. Kirkwood volunteers with the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare.

Kirkwood decided to check the websites of the 113 members of Congress who have signed onto HR 676.

Kirkwood checked to see how many of these co-sponsors state their support for HR 676 or for single payer or Medicare for All on the issues pages of their official web site or their campaign websites.

Only eight members did so.

How many of them mentioned their support on both their official and campaign web sites?

Only two – John Conyers (D-Michigan) –  the lead sponsor of the bill – and Michael Capuano (D-Massachusetts).

“Congressional Democrats and the national Democratic Party don’t actually want to pass Medicare for All because that would be the end the steady flow of campaign money the party receives from the for-profit health care industries,” Kirkwood says. “This money powers the careers of Party insiders and the political campaigns of their candidates.  But, Democratic elected officials need to publicly appear to support HR 676 because it is extremely popular among Democratic voters.  Democrats privately tell reformers that they support Medicare for All and, if anyone asks, they say – yes they have co-sponsored HR 676. But, when push comes to shove, they will not vote to pass HR 676 in the Congress. And they have little fear that push ever will come to shove because party leadership will not allow such a vote – as they did not in 2009.”

In an open letter to single payer activists, Kirkwood calls for a campaign to recruit and run single payer doctors for Congress.

“We should try to recruit physicians or retired physicians to run in both parties and in multiple Congressional districts,” Kirkwood writes. “Asking physicians to stand for election produces several benefits.”

“First, as doctors, the candidates will be presumed to be trustworthy, hard-working, honest, smart, accomplished, and motivated by an interest in the well-being of all.”

“Second, physicians can speak with authority and from personal experience about failures of the current health care system and the value of Medicare for All.”

“Third, if several physicians run, we will have created a “brand” that is easy for voters to remember and to associate with Medicare for All.”

“Fourth, it will not be necessary for each candidate to raise and spend large amounts of money to raise their individual profile in the public mind because the brand will produce publicity for every candidate.”

“The unusual nature of the project will make it news,” Kirkwood writes. “It will be a challenge to established self-interested politics by a collection of physicians focusing on one issue.  This will be something that people will talk about – national news.  It will be a project that can be replicated elsewhere.”

“If we get traction with the public, the Democratic Party establishment and its incumbents may recognize that they are on the wrong side of this issue and may respond by saying that they too stand for what the Doctors Campaign stands for – Medicare for All.  Or they may stick to protecting the health care industries.  In that case, the fight is on.  If we can recruit enough physicians to stand for election, we should challenge incumbents, of both parties, in the primary and the general elections. We may not win many seats the first time out, but we will be putting the question to the voters and offering them something they don’t have now – a way to vote for what they really want on Election Day. It will be necessary to continue the campaign through several Congressional elections.”

Kirkwood says plainly that Obamacare cannot be fixed and that.Trumpcare is cruel and unpopular.

“Health care costs are going to continue to rise,” he says. “More and more people will see the necessity of Medicare for All. But, our broken political system will still not be able to move us to the obvious solution. The political system must be disrupted in a major way. I don’t know who will do that, if not us.”

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

CounterPunch Magazine


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