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Jun. 11 2009 - 11:27 am | 4 views | 2 recommendations | 22 comments

Density and secrecy will defeat democracy in Kennedy’s health care bill

obamakennedyThe public finally got a look at Senator Kennedy’s behemoth 615-page health care bill, a document so gargantuan that Huffington Post put out an SOS to readers to help the editors read it. During the lead-up to the health care war, Kennedy promised Americans that the conversation about their health industry would be a national one, unlike the debacle the first time the Clintons tried to take on private health care. No more secrecy, Teddy promised. Except, this time the negotiations are — once again — happening behind closed doors, and the public favorite option, single-payer, isn’t represented at the table.

Kennedy has depicted this secret operation as essential to negotiations, but the popular single-payer option has been almost entirely shut out of the debate (59% of Americans believe the government should provide national health insurance). Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, lobbyists from “AARP, Aetna, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Business Roundtable, Easter Seals, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the United States Chamber of Commerce,” are all present at the Kennedy meetings.

You’d think single-payer advocate House Judiciary Chair John Conyers has the plague these days from the way his associates on the hill are dodging him. Conyers has been criticizing his fellow politicians for sabotaging the single-payer option.

“There is some notion that universal single-payer healthcare is off the table. Well, that raises a very important question. If you take the most popular healthcare reform measure and take it off the table, heaven knows what it is, I guess, you think you’re left with. This is the most popular form, and it would be very unlike the party in the majority now to determine that the most popular system would not even be examined. I am asking for a hearing in every committee, every committee, and if they will let us into the Senate, as well.”

Conyers, who — once again represents what the majority of Americans actually want — has been forced to chase the back of the health care bus like a crazed dog ever since March when he was not invited to President Obama’s Health Care Summit. Ultimately, Obama invited him when Conyers threatened to take his case to the president himself.

Why does one of the only politicians truly representing a populist desire need to grovel, beg, and holler to be included in the Kennedy-Obama closed-door meetings?

One reason may be that men like Max Baucus are permitted to aid in health care reform. Baucus is a human version of NASCAR race car except all his corporate logos advertise pharmaceutical companies. Great Falls Tribute reports that Baucus “received more campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries than any other sitting Democrat in the House or Senate, receiving $183,750 from health insurance companies and $229,020 from drug companies during that period.” It’s self-explanatory why a man who makes a living sucking from the teat of private health care wouldn’t be the most enthusiastic advocate of single-payer representatives being included in negotiations.

Others, like President Obama argue that the single-payer option isn’t (his favorite word) “pragmatic.”

“If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense…We don’t want a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we’re trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy.”

But now is precisely the moment when the system needs to be reinvented and purged of pharmaceutical and health insurance lobbyists. America’s health care system is already a global embarrassment. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the U.S. health care system rates 37th in the world in terms of quality and fairness. WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland says: “The main message from this report is that the health and well- being of people around the world depend critically on the performance of the health systems that serve them. Yet there is wide variation in performance, even among countries with similar levels of income and health expenditure. It is essential for decision- makers to understand the underlying reasons so that system performance, and hence the health of populations, can be improved.”

Dr. Julio Frenk, Executive Director for Evidence and Information for Policy at WHO says: ”It is especially beneficial to make sure that as large a percentage as possible of the poorest people in each country can get insurance…Insurance protects people against the catastrophic effects of poor health. What we are seeing is that in many countries, the poor pay a higher percentage of their income on health care than the rich.”

The message seems lost on the US government. Secret meetings with healthcare lobbyists, a 600+ page, dense bill offered without a summary cover page, killing the popular single-payer option? Kennedy’s bill appears to be extremely undemocratic.

President Obama has promised to bring his message to the people soon. Starting in the Midwest, he’ll try to convince the American people that his public-private hybrid health care is best for the nation. The single-payer option seems to already be a thing of the past. Instead of listening to what the majority of Americans want, Obama and associates are trying to convince the American people that a partially privatized system is best for them. This is the opposite of democracy. It’s a privatized health care propaganda tour.


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  1. collapse expand

    I have already received an email from Obama’s Organizing for America telling me “We know how fierce the opposition will be — we’ve seen it all before. But our opponents are about to face something new: The power of ordinary Americans who know firsthand that if we come together, we can achieve the extraordinary.” Then I got one from Chris Dodd saying “I know we can take on the special interests and win health care for all Americans.”

    It’s depressing. Here we have two of our alleged liberal Democratic leaders trying to fool us into thinking they are really going to do something about health care when they have already ruled out the only approach that has a hope of working.

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    There is a great deal in this post with which I agree – but a few things that I think are either unfair or not telling the entire story.

    You are correctly referencing recent polls that indicate that a substantial, possibly a majority, of Americans favor a single-payer government health system. The problem is, as we in California are learning to our great distress, people tend to tell us what they like but do not tell us what they are prepared to do to pay for the costs of what they like.

    If you study the many other nations who have single-payer systems (with all their benefits and disadvantages), they all have one thing in common. They are paid for with substantial tax contributions from the citizens of those countries. By way of example, France, which I think has one of the better health care systems in the world, charges a 14% tax to its citizens to pay for the system. What’s more, the French are currently experiencing the same difficulties we are experiencing in paying for the costs of health care as their prices also are dramatically on the rise. This is happening all over the world. Japan, which once had a fantastic system from the consumer point of view, is now in very deep distress. Women having babies often cannot find a hospital to accept them for the delivery. In England, another long time model for government provided health care, important cancer drugs are not available to many because the government simply cannot afford to pay for them.

    If the American public was truly willing to pick up the tab for a single-payer system, then I think the argument has great merit. But, while they like the idea of government provided health care, they appear to hate the idea of having to pay for it – and it would not come cheap.

    That said, I do agree that single-payer advocates should have a seat at the negotiations that have been going on. Not because they have much of a chance of convincing the assembled crowd that their way is the right way – but because they have a point of view on the argument which should absolutely be heard, considered and, where helpful, included.

    Your comments on Senator Baucus are fair and pretty accurate. Your comments on Senator Kennedy are not.

    Kennedy was the first in the Senate to support a single-payer system and he did so long ago. He was the voice driving the Clinton efforts in that direction. But Kennedy has learned that it ain’t going to happen – at least not yet – and he is not satisfied to do nothing until the day arrives when single payer can be a reality. The meetings that have been going on through his office have been secret (although not completely as I’ve been kept pretty much up to speed on what is happening) because to do otherwise would have compromised the opportunity to accomplish something. And those meetings have accomplished a great deal. The private insurance companies have come a long way. Not far enough in my estimation – and certainty not far enough in yours as I think you would prefer they disappear- but great progress has been made. And that was the purpose of the meetings.

    If we manage to accomplish anything to improve health care for more Americans, it will be due, in exceedingly large measure, to Senator Kennedy’s efforts which have gone on probably since before you were born.

    We cannot allow the health care system to continue on its current path because, from an ideological perspective, those who favor single-payer aren’t getting everything they want. The failure of Congress to pass a single-payer system is not an excuse for not moving the ball forward. Those who so badly need the help aren’t going to be healthier or be kept alive by the knowledge that liberals feel better about themselves because they held true to their ideas of single-payer or nothing. And, of course, suffering children are not going to be better served if conservatives get their way and nothing changes.

    As I often say, when you or someone you care about is ill, nobody gives a damn about political ideology. All you will want is for you, or them, to get better. If we can accomplish something meaningful this year to help everyone in need of medical care, it will be a major step forward. Maybe not all the steps you would like, but if we get one more person covered (and I believe it will be significantly more than that), put programs in place to bring down costs, and get some meaningful regulation on the private insurance companies, we will have truly accomplished something.

    And by the way…pharmaceutical expenditures in this country account for 10% of the total health care dollars spent whereas administration costs created by the bizarre claims system put in place by the private insurance companies cost about 30% of the nation’s health care dollars. So…I think you can see where the real issues are. We need to be cautious in how we treat Big Pharma – while there are things that they do that we don’t like, we cannot replace them in the same what the government could, theoretically, replace private insurance.

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      Hi Rick –

      I’ll try to address all your points. I apologize ahead of time if I leave anything out.

      1. “The government would have to raise taxes in order to afford single-payer coverage.” This is misleading. The US already pays twice as much as any other industrialized nation (over $7,000 per capita) for healthcare because our system is bloated and inefficient. Over one third of all healthcare dollars are spent in needless bureaucracy generated by the hapless private sector. Even if the government had to increase taxes for health care, they could make up the difference by cutting America’s bloated military budget (which is greater than the amount of the rest of the world’s military budgets, combined).

      From the Physicians for a National Healthcare Program website:

      A universal public system would be financed in the following way: The public funds already funneled to Medicare and Medicaid would be retained. The difference, or the gap between current public funding and what we would need for a universal health care system, would be financed by a payroll tax on employers (about 7%) and an income tax on individuals (about 2%). The payroll tax would replace all other employer expenses for employees’ health care, which would be eliminated. The income tax would take the place of all current insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket payments. For the vast majority of people, a 2% income tax is less than what they now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments such as co-pays and deductibles, particularly if a family member has a serious illness. It is also a fair and sustainable contribution.

      2. The Kennedy issue. The only reason politicians say it “ain’t gonna happen” is because they’re in the pockets of the private health care industry, or they realize they can’t get the votes (Kennedy’s case) because their associates (Baucus) are up to their eyebrows in health industry cash. Kennedy himself has raised nearly $300,000 from the pharmacutical/health care industry, so he’s in no position to tell them to bugger off. Of course, when the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists are invited to the negotiation table, they’re not going to vote to antiquate themselves. That’d be insanity.

      With respect, I really have to disagree that the private insurance have “come a long way.” How? Certainly, they curtail their most corrupt behavior whenever politicians threaten them with nationalized health care reform, but when the threat passes, they got back to their old ways. If there’s no single-payer program competing with privatized health care, they can pretty much do whatever they want. Right now, they still charge absurd rates and regularly bankrupt Americans and ruin lives.

      3. “You’re not going to get single-payer, so quit whining.” (Okay, not your exact wording, I know. :) ) But it’s a fair point. Single-payer has been pushed out of the arena of “possible” for so long, that it seems very unlikely that it’s going to happen. But that doesn’t mean single-payer advocates should give up. Reform rarely happens overnight, and it may take many years (or decades) for this to happen. But I firmly believe a single-payer system is the only truly fair, humane solution and Americans deserve it. So I’m going to keep bitching that we don’t have it.

      4. Big Pharma has a huge, huge presence in Washington and is frequently the top contributor to many of these politicians, so they have enormous leverage in this debate.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Sen. Bernie Sanders on single-payer:

    I think the importance of the [Senate HELP Committee] hearing is not that it will change minds but that the American people — and Congress — should hear the facts about the enormous waste and bureaucracy and profiteering associated with private health insurance. Not to deal with that is mind-blowing.


    What I have also introduced, which we will be fighting for, is a five-state option. That would mean five states would have the option of running pilot programs in universal health care but one would have to be single payer.

    I think it’s possible this will never happen in DC, but that this country will join the rest of the industrialized world when a state, maybe like Vermont, implements single payer and does it well. And then New Hampshire will be looking over our shoulders, and they will adopt that, and so on through the country. That’s in fact how national health care came to Canada, it started in the Saskatchewan province.

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    I’ll try to take your points as you presented them.
    1. Actually, it is $8,000 per person is spent on health care. And, you are absolutely correct that over 30% is wasted in the needless administration in the private system (as I pointed out in my earlier comment.) I would also agree that the money spent in the bloated military could be far better spent on health care. The problem is, nobody in the Pentagon or the Defense committees give a shit about what I have to say on the subject and I don’t see it going away.
    Here’s the real problem. While the per capita average spent per person is $8,000, that does not mean that every American is spending $8,000. Or, equating that to a family of four, it doesn’t mean that the earner in the family is spending $32,000 a year on medical care. Thus, those people will not take kindly to being taxed at the rate of an additional $32,000 per year to pay for old coots like me who are responsible for far more than $8,000 per year in health care expenditures. Even were you to half the costs of medical care (which, you must admit, is one hell of a stretch), I don’t think you’d find many voters out there who are prepared to pony up an extra $16,000 a year in taxes. This is where the idea, while sound in concept, has a way of breaking down when people find out how much they will personally have to fork over from their own pockets to pay for a single-payer system.

    As for the analysis of the Physicians for National Health Care, I wish it were correct. What they are failing to consider is that, even with the present contributions funneled to Medicare, most of what the federal government has spent in the past number of years on Medicare has been BORROWED MONEY. It’s not like the present level of contributions is adequate to support Medicare because it, indisputably, is not. Further, employers are voters too. I don’t think they will take too kindly to a 7% tax even if it does replace their current out of pocket expenditures on employee health care. For one thing, their costs do not currently even approach 7% of the businesses that provide health coverage (remember that most benefits today involve the employee picking up an ever larger percentage) and this analysis fails to take into consideration that many small businesses provide no health care to employees. I’d love to buy into what is suggested in this analysis (because I too would personally prefer a single-payer system or many aspects of one) but, I’m afraid, it is flawed.

    2. I’m afraid I’m still not with you on Kennedy. If you have the time, have a good look at his history on the topic and I think there’s a good chance you might come away feeling differently. As for antiquating private insurance and pharmaceuticals – as I noted earlier, we can live without private insurance if the government steps in. You would not want to live in a world where pharmaceuticals were antiquated. I don’t know your experience, but I’m pretty sure I would not be alive today if it were not for pharmaceuticals (and I know I would have had a lot less fun :-) . We don’t want pharmaceuticals antiquated. Ask your parents how they would feel about that.

    As for private insurance coming a long way – they have. They have agreed to make insurance available to everyone, regardless of prior medical conditions in exchange for mandating full coverage for all Americans so that insurance pool can be expanded to make that possible. Very reasonable. They have agreed to return to community rating which means that everyone would pretty much pay the same. Also a big deal. What they haven’t done yet is agree to standardize contracts so that nomenclature and codification are the same for all contracts, thus eliminating much of that 31% wasted on administrative costs. This is big and they need to do this. As for returning to their old ways, that could happen if they are not better regulated as a part of the reform effort. If that becomes the case, I will wholeheartedly agree with you.

    3.I don’t think you should quit whining! Well, maybe you should quit whining but you certainly should not quit fighting. I agree that, inevitably, this country will have to go to a single-payer system. I also agree that it is the best way to go IF it is properly constructed learning the lessons from the other nations who have more experience with the approach. So, I’m never going to suggest that you shut-up. I’m only suggesting that we can’t let the fact that isn’t going to happen yet become the excuse to leave things as they are. We need significant improvement, even if it is not yet all you would like it to be.

    4. You are absolutely right about Big Pharma. They are also, most years, the most profitable industry in America (only recently being eclipsed by oil and gas.) As I noted, they do some things we don’t like — but we would not like life so much without them. The conversation also goes far deeper. Much of the costs that we suffer at the hands of Big Pharma are the direct result of the nations you admire for their single-payer system using the government’s power to price-control drugs. We end up making up the difference because we are not a socialized system. It isn’t completely as simple as that, but there are a few sides to this complicated issue. I don’t mean to overly defend Big Pharma- I just think it’s important that you understand both sides of the situation that has led to where we are.

    • collapse expand

      1. I agree that no “cookie cutter” formula can be applied universally to every American family. This is where the math gets hairy. All kinds of numbers are being thrown out there (and I’m not sure where yours are coming from.) I’m sure some families do spend far less on medical costs than other families, but some individuals use the fire department and NYPD more than me, too. I don’t demand an annual, itemized list of expenses from my upstairs neighbor simply because she’s elderly and has had to call the fire department twice this year, and I haven’t had to call them at all. Insurance inherently pays out to some people more than others, but isn’t that the whole concept of paying into a social safety net? The money should be there for those who need it.

      If we had an efficient health care system in this country, it would actually save employers money in the long term. Part of the reason GM was bleeding money is because they spent more on healthcare than steel. A single-payer plan would have changed that instead of GM becoming a health care company that made cars on the side.

      2. I know more than enough about Kennedy. Visit opensecrets.org to check out his donor lists. Private health care industry galore! I think you’re adding a tinge of apocalyptical foreboding to my initial statement. I’m not saying pharmaceuticals should be banished. Of course people should still have medicine. I just don’t think health care should be a for-profit business, and the rest of the industrialized world agrees with me.

      They have agreed to make insurance available to everyone, regardless of prior medical conditions in exchange for mandating full coverage for all Americans so that insurance pool can be expanded to make that possible.

      That’s simply not true. Many insurance companies charge high premiums and deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. As for the rest of the “changes” you claim insurance companies have implemented, I’d love to see a link or some kind of source. Perhaps some companies have made these changes, and for that they should be applauded, but many have not made these changes. That’s precisely why the healthcare debate is so heated in this country.

      3. I’m glad we’re in agreement here! :)

      4. So you’re saying single-payer health care systems in other countries cost American taxpayers money? Truly a statement I’ve never, ever heard before! But I’ll need proof of the claim before I can believe it.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    2. You misunderstood or I was not clear. I’m not saying that insurance companies currently offer insurance without consideration for prior health conditions nor am I saying they currently community rate their policies. I’m saying that they have agreed to do these things going forward if the government will agree to mandate health coverage for all Americans. This is something that has come out of the closed door sessions being held by Kennedy’s staff that have already been announced. It hasn’t happened yet — its part of what they’ve agreed to do because they are terrified of the public health option.

    4. Actually, it is true with respect to drug prices. In every other industrialized nation in the world, the governments negotiate the purchase and pricing for drugs. That should make sense considering the governments in those countries ultimately pay for them. As a result, they all engage in price fixing which, in turn, benefits the consumers in their nations. We are the only country that does not price fix because the government doesn’t negotiate the prices for all drugs used in the country. As a result, Big Pharma lays off all of their marketing and R&D costs to us. So, Americans do get screwed because we end up shouldering all these costs that the rest of the world won’t pay for. This doesn’t change because of, as you point out, the influence, of Big Pharma in Congress. However, imagine for a moment that the US decided to buy all the drugs and fixed the prices as do the other industrialized nations. What would happen then? It’s likely to be one of two things — you could argue that with the profits the drug companies earn, they could afford to pay their R&D and subtract it from their huge profits. Big Pharma would argue that they are not prepared to take that hit, so they will simply cut back on their R&D and rely on their big sellers to make lots of money. If we go with option two, you and I will pay less for drugs. But – on the other hand- that cure I’m looking to see in the next five years for non-hodgkins lymphoma is not very likely to happen. This is why I say it gets complicated when talking about drugs. Yes, Americans are being forced to way overpay. But, by teaching Big Pharma a lesson, people will suffer. Thus, if you are a young immortal – ie., someone young and healthy who believes they will never be ill, then I can certainly appreciate why you would favor the notion of putting Big Pharma in its place. Eventually, they will have to start doing some R&D or they will go out of business. But if you are in the older population and more dependent on their products, you are not likely to be a big fan of this. It is a problem without an easy answer. I would like to see other countries step up and share more of the costs to relieve the burden placed on us – but it isn’t likely to happen.

    One other thing — you want to paint Kennedy as a bad guy because he takes money from health care stakeholders. I understand your point but aren’t you focusing your anger in the wrong direction? What you should be “whining” :-) about is our system which allows this money in politics. On that score, you and I would certainly agree.

    • collapse expand

      2. Ah! I see. Well, the insurance companies have been saying for years that they’ve seen the error of their ways and they promise to make amends when and if the government revamps healthcare. We shall see if they uphold that bargain in Obama’s public-private hybrid. However, I don’t see what motivation they would have, exactly, if they’re still a for-profit model.

      4. I think arguing that medical cures can only come from the private industry is wrong. The reason many cures do come from private R&D is because our best minds have gone into private healthcare because that’s where the profits are. That example extends throughout American society (it’s much more profitable to work on Wall Street than as a civil servant). Also, the R&D argument is actually a pretty old scare tactic PhRMA loves to bust out. From AARP:

      “This argument has always puzzled me,” says Uwe Reinhardt, an expert on health policy at Princeton University. “The truth is that R&D spending [as a percentage of revenue] is equal or higher in Europe than here,” yet European countries all control drug prices.

      The top 10 American drug companies plow back an average of 12.5 percent of their sales revenue into R&D, according to company reports. PhRMA disputes this figure, saying that company spending on R&D for prescription drugs alone (not including other products made by the firms) is 17.7 percent according to its own survey of drug firms. In contrast, the price-controlled British drug industry says it spends about 20 percent of sales revenue on R&D.

      American drugmakers have used the same argument against several laws that would curb prices—notably the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act, which opened up the market to less expensive generic drugs.

      “So far none has had an effect on R&D,” says Stephen Schondelmeyer, an expert on drug trends at the University of Minnesota. “In fact, R&D and profits accelerated after these laws put pressure on prices.”

      PhRMA estimates the industry spent $30 billion on R&D last year. It claims the costs of bringing new drugs to market average $800 million each. The watchdog group Public Citizen disputes the way this figure was calculated—arguing that, for example, it does not take into account the large tax deductions companies can claim for R&D.

      * One other thing: Oh certainly! I do blame the system along with the man, but I also blame the man who gets his hand stuck in the cookie jar. :)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    “This argument has always puzzled me,” says Uwe Reinhardt, an expert on health policy at Princeton University. “The truth is that R&D spending [as a percentage of revenue] is equal or higher in Europe than here,” yet European countries all control drug prices.

    As usual, Dr. Reinhardt is right (he pretty much always is.) Except I’m not sure what he said here speaks to your point. Yes, a lot of R&D money is spent in Europe- maybe even more than here. But, as he points out, European countries all control drug prices while we do not. That is why the drug companies recoup all that R&D in the USA. My question does still stand – if they don’t get to recoup it anywhere, will this not stunt the development of new drugs? Your point that drug designers might turn to the public sector if they don’t do as well in the private sector is well taken. But you have to realize that you are proposing a very radical change that isn’t going to happen in the next 12 months — not that it can’t, or shouldn’t, happen eventually. Republicans like to point out that the public health option is nothing more than a step along the way to the eventual nationalization of health care. They may be right — and that may be just fine. Starting with the public option may be the best way to move the system towards where you would like it to go. But we do need those intermediate steps. Remember that almost all the other socialized medical systems (with the exception of Canada) have their “roots” in what took place during WWII. The European countries began providing government based health care during the war years. Thus, it was fairly simple for them to institutionalize the systems following the war.
    You might want to take a look at the Australian system which I think is particularly good. The federal government provides a safety net to all Australians while incentivizing them to move over to the private insurance sector. They do, however, maintain pretty strict controls over the private system. Indeed, the largest private health insurer is owned by the federal government. They seem to recognize the pitfalls of a government system along with the benefits and use both public and private to make sure that everyone has access to health care. It’s a pretty good model.

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      Not exactly. The example was used to illustrate that R&D’s budget doesn’t necessarily suffer because of price-controls (or generic alternatives).

      PhRMA also consistently fails to mention the enormous tax deductions they claim for R&D (conveniently).

      The key (as always) is regulation. Simply saying “Oh, well, let’s try a public-private hybrid and hope for the best” will result in the same problems we’re experiencing now (price inflation, rejection for pre-existing conditions, etc.) However, an Australian model would work if we also adopted that strict regulation of the private industry you mentioned. I just don’t predict the private industry will ever volunteer to be heavily regulated. Again, that entails PhRMA and the insurance industry placing their own heads on the chopping blocks. There’s just no incentive. The only reason they’re being even remotely cooperative right now is because (as we already discussed,) they’re scared shitless by all this talk of nationalized health care. Once that threat passes, it’ll be business as usual.

      Now! Shameless radio show plug :) Citizen Radio airs every Wednesday at Breakthru Radio. You can join our Facebook group to receive updates of our weekly shows, and our episodes are also available for free download on iTunes (instructions for how to do that are on the Facebook page, too.)

      You made some great, compelling points here, man. I really appreciate the comments. I wanted to call-out so many of your responses, but I’ve heard we’re not supposed to do that with fellow T/S contributors :)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    On a different topic, where I hear Citizen Radio in LA? I’d very much like to listen to your show.

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    Good piece Allison, and I pretty much agree with just about everything you say, though I do think you may be a tad harsh on Kennedy. I too long for single payer, but all things considered I think we have to accept we’re just not there yet, but the govt plan will move us a hell of lot closer. I think we have to be careful not to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

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    You make some great points also. In fact, you’ve by far done I’ve seen on this site arguing for single-payer By the way, the reason you don’t need to call out contributor comments is because they are automatically called out. And I will listen to your program!

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    Allison I can tell you from my own personal experience that Senator Kennedy’s commitment to the issue is real. I used to be education director for the NY chapter of the American Liver Foundation (I have a chronic liver disease), in relation to that work I’ve had 3 opportunities to work with the senator and his staff. I know first hand that his commitment to this issue is real and I know there are many many Americans who are alive today because of his efforts. It’s fair to question his methods on this issue, I don’t think it’s far to question his motives.

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      I don’t doubt that. I’m not saying he’s some horrible, evil man that wants Americans to die because they can’t afford health insurance. :) What I’m saying is it’s difficult for even the most morally upright politician to make health care reform a reality when PhRMA and insurance lobbyists have such a large presence in Washington. You can’t take hundreds of thousands of dollars in private health care donations without the industry asking for something in return.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I would like to say that I support harsh criticism, right or wrong, of all politicians, especially those damn Kennedys. I therefore salute your post. (Salutes)

    With that said I think that while Bernie Sanders argument about doing single payer on a state by state basis is interesting, the comparison to Canada is flawed. Canada got Universal Health Care because they had a third party, The New Democrats, to push the Liberals to accept it.

    For instance, take the Saskatchewan example, why did Saskatchewan introduce a single payer system? Was it because the Liberal Party finally decided to grow a conscience? No it was because Tommy Douglas, the founder of the NDP, was their Premier (Governor). This is why Tommy Douglas is called the father of Medicare and was recently voted the greatest Canadian ever — obviously proving how much Canadians loathe their health care system.

    Since we don’t have anything resembling a third party in this country, the road to a fair and just health-care system will be a lot more difficult.

    (Also a trivial fact, since you guys complain on Citizen Radio about the show 24, Kiefer Sutherland is Tommy Douglas’ grandson. Which I guess means that while the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it does occasionally get kicked.)

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    About Me

    I co-host Citizen Radio, the alternative political radio show. I am a contributing reporter to Huffington Post, Alternet.org, and The Nation.

    My essay "Youth Surviving Subprime" appears in The Nation's new book, Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover beside esssays by Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Naomi Klein, who I'm told are all important people.

    G. Gordon Liddy once told me my writing makes him want to vomit, which is the greatest compliment I've ever been paid ever.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 453
    Contributor Since: May 2009
    Location:New York, New York

    What I'm Up To

    • In The Nation’s New Book


      Check out my article “Youth Surviving Subprime” in The Nation’s new book beside essays by Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Naomi Klein.

    • Citizen Radio

      I co-host the biweekly political-comedy show, Citizen Radio. It’s like CNN, but with more swearing. Citizen Radio covers the stories that the mainstream, corporate media ignores. Past guests include: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, Ralph Nader, Tariq Ali,  Janeane Garofalo, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and more…

      Go to wearecitizenradio.com and click on the iTunes logo to subscribe to our podcast for FREE. Also, join us on Facebook

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