Physicians For A National Health Program (PHNP), points out what many of us have been asking about the odd exclusion of single-payer advocates from any of the health reform discussions held by the White House in their press release:
The president wants this process to be open and transparent, with the goal of achieving universal coverage. However, groups representing physicians, nurses, and consumers who advocate for a single-payer system of national health insurance have thus far been excluded from the summit.
The Clinton task force on health reform made a similar mistake of excluding the voices of those who support a single-payer system, and the result was a complicated, inadequate reform proposal that catered to the interests of insurance companies and failed to garner public support. At a time when public support for single-payer is greater than ever - more than 60 percent in recent polls - we urge President Obama not to make the same mistake. He must include single-payer advocates in the health care summit next week.
President Obama says that he wants to bring everyone to the health care summit, but then why is he excluding single-payer advocates? I myself support the public option in a private-public health care reform plan, and I support the right of single-payer advocates to be heard because they present a very compelling question that deserves an answer from those who are supposed to bring about health care reform. It is very odd that President Obama is specifically excluding one group from the health insurance summit to be held tomorrow on Monday.
Also, with having set aside over $600 billion for universal health insurance in his budget, and excluding the public option from his eight principles which he outlined for the need for health insurance reform, it is clear that President Obama is ready to compromise away the public option in exchange for an universal mandate and the pre-existing conditions ban in health insurance plans.
And Senator Kennedy, in working with his health care legislation, has held secret meetings with groups according to the New York Times such as:
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.
Health insurance companies like Aetna and AHIP are ready to line up at the trough, eager at the thought of the public being forced to buy their shoddy junk insurance plans through an universal mandate since their earnings have gone down. The universal mandate is nothing more than a bailout for these greedy for-profit insurance companies.
But the industry is also taking a very public role in voicing concern about some of the proposals being floated. In supporting legislation that would prevent the companies from refusing to cover people with existing medical conditions, the insurers have said the government must require everyone to buy insurance, subsidizing the cost for those who cannot afford it.
Both Aetna and UnitedHealth had double-digit declines in earnings last year, but both remain solidly profitable. Aetna earned $1.4 billion, down 24 percent, on sales of $31.6 billion, while UnitedHealth had net earnings of nearly $3 billion, down 36 percent, on revenue of $81.2 billion.
And they are very opposed to the idea of a public option in any health care reform plan, and their lobbyists are gearing up for the battle, ready to manipulate the public against the public option, which has the potential of forcing these private insurance companies to compete on a level playing field with affordable premiums:
FOR private insurers, the more troubling specter in health care reform is an expansion of the Medicare program to those under 65. The program has lower expenses and generally pays much less for medical care than private insurers, so it would probably translate into a lower-cost plan for consumers. To help lead opposition to the idea, which they say puts them at an unfair disadvantage, insurers have joined with hospitals to argue that Medicare pays too little so that any expansion would significantly hurt providers.
Remember this poll, taken by Kaiser, of the public on who they trust to do health care reform?
You can see that the 72% of those polled by Kaiser DO NOT TRUST the recommendations of health insurance companies for health care reform, so once again, why are these companies in secret meetings with Kennedy's office, and why are they invited to the health care summit held by the White House, and not the single-payer advocates?
And as Howard Dean pointed out on Hardball with Chris Matthews:
"If Barack Obama’s bill gets changed to exclude the public entities, it is not health insurance reform...it rises and falls on whether the public is allowed to choose Medicare if they’re under 65 or not. If they are allowed to choose Medicare as an option, this bill will be real health care reform. If they’re not, we will be back fighting about it for another 20 years before somebody tries again."
No wonder why Dean wasn't chosen for HHS Secretary.
UPDATE: Ezra Klein over at the American Prospect also wonders about why the public option was not a part of the eight key principles that Obama outlined:
Sigh. Just wrote a longer post on this that got eated by Movable Type. But suffice to say that Brian is right to look with concern at the absence of a public insurance option in the health care principles. The public plan is something the administration supports, but isn't necessarily committed to. No one quite knows if it's the thing you need to get the liberals on-board or the thing you can't have if you're going to get Specter and Collins.
But even if it is a bargaining chip, it's hard to understand the bargaining theory in which you don't start with it in the plan. If you need to negotiate it out, that's one thing. But if it's not there from the start, the Specters and Collins of the world will ask for a different concession in return for their vote. And then you won't have the public plan or whatever other thing they removed (or, I guess, included).
That said, this isn't a bill, and I'm sure administration spokesfolk would tell you that they're leaving this to Congress. The budget is vague on a lot of specifics. In fact, they have said that. But I don't buy it. This could be there as easily as prevention. But they wanted the principles to be broadly supportable. The question now becomes whether Kennedy and Dodd's people decide to fight for its inclusion.