Mark Leno enters national health care fray

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is rubbing elbows with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., today for events to promote single-payer universal health care.

Leno – author of the California Universal Health Care Act, SB 810 – is about to join Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to speak at a “Medicare: Made in America,” rally in support of Conyers’ HR 676, which creates a Medicare-for-all-style health care system. Afterward, he’ll be meeting with House and Senate members and staffers in support of a single-payer system.

“Our health care system is a failed experiment,” Leno said in a news release. “We don’t even have a health care system in this country, we have a risk management system, and the risk being managed is not the health of you and your family, it’s the profit margin of the insurance industry. People are realizing that insurance companies don’t provide health care – they ration it based on who can pay the most. A single payer system would put doctors and patients back in charge of health care decisions and is proven to save billions a year in wasteful administration. We need to build on systems, like Medicare, that we know will work.”

Later yet this afternoon, Leno will join Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, at a Congressional briefing on state-based single payer initiatives sponsored by the California Nurses, to talk about successes and setbacks in California’s own health-care reform efforts.

“California made history by passing a Medicare for all style health care plan – twice – only to have it thwarted by the Governor,” Leno said. “The single payer movement in California continues to grow quickly in every county of the state and our success has inspired other state legislatures. We won’t stop pushing until every American has access to health care.”

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HHS offers California health reform talking points

The story I wrote earlier this week about Rep. Barbara Lee’s health-care reform discussion forum Monday in Oakland brought a lot of varied responses from readers. For example, here are two e-mails I received within a few minutes of each other yesterday:

Thank you for a great article. The only solution to the Healthcare problem is a single payer plan. It cannot and should not be dismissed. The naysayer Republicans have no alternative plan to get the 47 million plus people healthcare coverage. The question should be how do we get healthcare for all rather than how do we get healthcare for all without hurting the profit of the Insurance Industry.

Now is the time for real change. They should never have been allowed to take single payer plan off the table. Many feel that we will be lucky if we get a public plan but that should not even be a question.

And…

Can you send me some of the kool aide these people must be drinking?

Everyone quotes the number of people without health care at 46million, but the report this comes from states that it is more likely in the area of 38 million, looking at the actual number of people without heath care at any one point in time. If you consider non-Americans, you can take out another 20%. And if you consider the number of people earning over $75k a year and who just don’t want to be bothered, you actally end up with a really small number of people lacking insurance.

Anyway, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this morning released a series of state-by-state reports on the health care status quo in order to highlight the need for health reform.

“In states across the country, health care costs are going up and families are struggling to get the quality care they need and deserve,” Sebelius said in her news release. “We cannot wait to pass reform that protects what works about health care and fixes what’s broken.”

“The American people have been calling for reform, and they should not have to wait any longer. Health reform will assure quality affordable health care for all Americans, lower costs, and give more Americans the choices they deserve. The time for reform is now.”

Read the report on California, after the jump…
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Why not air all the health-care reform options?

In a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s post about how the supposedly moribund GOP still manages to shape the debate on certain issues, here’s Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the House floor last night talking about health-care reform:

You’ll notice she speaks of her own advocacy of a single-payer universal health care plan, but then she focuses in on ensuring whatever plan comes forth this year has a robust public insurance component so that every American is guaranteed accessible, quality health care. That’s in keeping with a statement issued jointly a few weeks ago by Lee’s CBC along with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

The chairs of all those caucuses – Lee for the CBC; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., for the progressives; Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y., for the Hispanic Caucus; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for the CAPAC – all are among the 75 cosponsors of H.R. 676, which would expand Medicare into a national, single-payer system covering all Americans.

But as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held hearings last week to lay groundwork for a health care reform plan, chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., invited nobody to talk about single-payer options. Protestors decrying this omission disrupted the hearings; more than a dozen were arrested.

“We’ve got to reform our system fairly quickly, and to be candid with you, very few members of the House and Senate advocate single-pay. The vast, vast majority do not,” Baucus told the Great Falls Tribune last week. “It tells me that if I go down that road, it’s not going to be successful — it’s not going to pass the Congress.”

So the votes might not be there right now, but how do we know they wouldn’t be there if all the options were aired, if Congress and the American public could consider a single-payer option side-by-side with other options? Perhaps it would still be a non-starter, perhaps not; if opponents are so sure it’s nonsense, why not follow Woodrow Wilson’s axiom that “nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air.” Isn’t that what open debate is all about?

Republican leaders not only don’t want to hear about single-payer, they don’t even want to talk about any public component at all lest we end up with “socialized medicine” that they insist would be inferior to the patchwork of private insurance America has now.

And yet a recent CBS News/New York Times poll found Americans are more likely today to embrace the idea of the government providing health insurance than they were 30 years ago: 59 percent say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49 percent who say such insurance should cover all medical problems. Go figure.