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Katie Robbins

Katie Robbins is the Assistant National Coordinator of Healthcare-NOW! and a firm believer that health care is a human right that must be delivered to all people without financial barriers

October 26th, 2009 5:24 AM

Single Payer Comes to Vote – Action Needed!

If you’re like me, you are currently hoping that Democratic leadership will take the thousand-plus page health care bills in the House and Senate, wad them up with all the loopholes, mandates, giveaways, and gaps, and throw them in the trash can. Thanks to Rep. Weiner [D-NY], and Senator Sanders [I-VT], Congress has the opportunity to do just that.

Rep. Weiner is bringing single-payer to the House floor for a vote in an amendment to HR 3200. If the Weiner single-payer amendment is passed, it would gut all of HR 3200 and replace it with legislation that is based on the single-payer model in HR 676. Senator Sanders is doing the same in the Senate with his single-payer bill, S 703.

The beauty of these amendments is that they build on what works in our health care system: Medicare.

Despite the right wing attacks and accusations that it is going bankrupt, the Medicare system has guaranteed universal, equitable access to care for those over 65 and with disabilities. Since its enactment, life expectancy has increased and poverty in the elderly has been cut by 2/3. While it needs improvements, it is certainly not beyond repair, and truly does serve as a uniquely American example of how to provide health care for all.

The question remains, why can’t Congress just vote on HR 676 without any of this amendment business?

Welcome to the nuances of legislative politics. Even with 87 cosponsors, HR 676 was not guaranteed a vote from Democratic leadership in the House. They just wouldn’t do it. Why they wouldn’t do it is open to speculation. It could have been a political calculation, or perhaps they are bought off by the insurance industry, or they just didn’t think they could get the votes for it. Despite the single-payer movement’s demands, there was no vote in sight for HR 676 as of July 29th, 2009.

Just before breaking for the infamous August recess, single-payer developments started to unfold within the corridors of power.

On July 30th, the same day that over one thousand single-payer activists rallied in the nation’s capitol to celebrate the 44th anniversary of Medicare’s enactment, Rep. Weiner introduced an amendment to eliminate Medicare completely. It was unanimously voted down. He was thrilled to find that in his committee Republicans and Democrats alike support Medicare. The following day, Rep. Weiner introduced another amendment which was the exact language of HR 676, Improved and Expanded Medicare for All. If this amendment passed, there would be no more HR 3200, just universal, comprehensive, single-payer health care as the legislation coming from his committee.

Much to the surprise of Rep. Weiner and all those watching, Chairman Waxman didn’t allow the vote to happen in the committee. Instead, he stated that he and Speaker Pelosi had agreed that if Rep. Weiner withdrew his amendment at the time, they would allow it to come to the floor of the House for full debate and vote.

That’s right folks. Single-payer will come to the House floor for the first time in our nation’s history for a vote and thanks to the leadership of Senator Sanders, we will see a vote on single-payer in the Senate too.

What can you do to support these developments?

Follow Michael Moore’s advice and support the Weiner and Sanders amendments. Call your Congress person today. Healthcare-NOW! has a new click-to-call tool that never made calling Congress so easy – tools.advomatic.com/35/hc-n/.

They need to hear from you. We cannot be silent on the reform that this country so desperately needs.

Because we have to use all of the tools available in the fight against injustice, the time for nonviolent civil disobedience is upon us. Healthcare-NOW! and allied groups recently launched the Mobilization for Health Care for All. In recent weeks, nearly 100 people have put their bodies on the line and been arrested demanding Medicare for All and the end of profiteering insurance companies. People are standing up to our corporate controlled health care that is preventing a fair hearing in Congress and in the media by sitting in at insurance companies across the nation.

17 cities are ready to participate in actions in the next week to demand that the insurance industry take every lobbying dollar they're spending to corrupt our democracy and use it to pay for the care they're denying. Everyone can take part in this campaign by risking arrest or supporting the actions in a legal rally. Together we can demand a health care system that works for patients, not profits – Medicare for All.

Sign up to sit in at www.mobilizeforhealthcare.org.

Katie Robbins is Assistant National Coordinator of Healthcare-NOW! and a firm believer that health care is a human right that must be delivered to all people without financial barriers. Motivated by the great injustice in the US health care system, she was arrested on May 5th in the Senate Finance Committee for telling Senator Baucus to stop the political theater and put single-payer on the table.

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