A Push for Public Health Care
Advocates are urging President Obama to end insurance industry domination over health care. But they are divided on how the new system should work.
One camp is campaigning for national single-payer health coverage. A second group is backing a proposal by the Obama administration that offers a hybrid of public and private coverage.
The single-payer plan resembles the Canadian health system, in which the government covers medical costs, but health services are provided mostly by private entities. Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) has championed this proposal through the bill H.R. 676, which now has 75 cosponsors in the House.
The single-payer movement has support from a wide range of groups, including Physicians for a National Health Program and the California Nurses Association. A handful of state legislatures, including California, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, also are considering single-payer bills. Lawmakers in several states, such as Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, have passed resolutions urging Congress to adopt single-payer.
But former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean warns that the single-payer system will “scare people,” who will be unwilling to give up their current health coverage.
Dean has been stumping for the Obama plan, which offers a choice between private insurance or public coverage. MoveOn.org and Health Care for America NOW! also back the plan.
Single-payer supporters counter that the Obama plan is more costly, and that it capitulates to the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, insurance lobbyists oppose both proposals, favoring the Massachusetts approach, in which all but the state’s low-income residents must sign up for private coverage. The Massachusetts plan is considered a failure by many, plagued by escalating costs for both the state and health consumers. And advocates fear that private insurance companies will overcharge or exclude services, unless they are forced to compete with a more inclusive public plan.
The Obama administration has held several regional health care forums and a national summit, and is meeting with interest groups, gearing up for what will be the bigger battle: getting Congress to approve reform.
—Kim Eckart is associate editor at YES! Magazine.
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