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The Battle For Health Care: Between Now and Labor Day, It’s Still On

August 7, 2009

The Battle For Health Care: Between Now and Labor Day, It’s Still On

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Black Agenda Report


President Obama told us to judge his first term on whether he managed to provide quality, affordable health care to the American people, especially the uninsured and underinsured.. With various versions of his bill not beginning to cover the uninsured till 2013, it seems a test the administration has forgotten, and hopes that we will too. We won’t. The weeks between now and Labor Day will be decisive in determining what, if anything, comes out of congress this year. This is no time to lay back, or to wait and see. This is the critical time to organize and educate, to mobilize and to act.

While the failure of the Obama Administration and its allies in Congress to agree even among themselves on the contents of health care reform legislation is bad news for the White House, it may be quite good news for the American people. Far from being over, or even being in recess, the scene of the ongoing battle for health care reform shifts between now and Labor Day to hundreds of congressional district offices, to formal and informal house and neighborhood meetings, in thousands of cities and towns, to web sites and email lists across the nation.
The White House, blue dog democrats and the blue cross democrats too all wanted this thing settled by now. Their aim was to pass a toothless and dishonest bill that would take the issue of health care reform off the table without providing health care to the uninsured. For the last two weeks BAR has provided some of the damning and well-known features of HR 3200 which are rarely mentioned in corporate media such as the facts that


few or none of the uninsured would be covered till 2013

you could be forced to purchase junk insurance

the right to bargain drug prices down has been given away

the administration won’t reimport Canadian drugs

the public option will only cover about 10 million people instead of the promised 120-130 million

the public option won’t be able to keep insurance companies honest or drive prices downward

the public option was emphatically NOT Medicare, and expressly designed not to lead to any version of single payer or Medicare for All.

nobody knows what the “health care co-ops” which the administration has agreed might be substituted for the public option are, whether they are “co-ops” of health care providers or health care consumers or health insurance brokers or providers, and no explanations have been offered

As Barack Obama’s family doctor explained in several interviews, the versions of the bill in several committees were hopelessly compromised and worse than no bill at all. And congress will not meet again till the first week of September.

Small wonder. In the U.S., elected officials of either party answer to voters only once every two, four or six years. But wealthy lobbyists, in many cases their own former and future employees, their spouses, in-laws, family members and former colleagues, have the ears of powerful Republicans and Democrats every day. Unlike ordinary citizens, these lobbyists have their cell phones on speed dial and are frequent visitors to their homes and offices. They spend billions of dollars every election cycle on direct campaign contributions, patronage and a galaxy of favors, many untraceable and most unmatchable by mere citizens. This is how bipartisan corporate power usually trumps people power. The same Barack Obama who was swept in by tens of millions wanting change, accepted $19 million in 2008 from the insurance industry alone, according to the Center For Responsive Politics. This does not include additional contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries, or any of the vast sums coming directly from the law firms and relatives of their lobbyists, or directly from lobbyists themselves as so-called small individual contributions.

The fact is that Democrats, including the president and his allies are deeply conflicted. To varying degrees, they are owned by the very interests health care reform would threaten. The act would be transparently obvious to everyone, but for a deceitful corporate media which allow not the slightest hint that any sane or responsible person has a point of view to the left of the administration.

The most salient fact of the health care battle not covered in the corporate media is that two thirds or more of Americans do favor a single payer or Medicare For All health care system that covers everyone. This view is of course completely shut out of TV, radio and print coverage, leading Americans to believe that their own beliefs are somehow extreme and isolated and not shared. But it’s not. Congress knows, the White House knows, Big Insurance, Big Health Care and Big Pharma all know that single payer is ordinary, majoritarian American wisdom.

As such, it cannot be resisted forever. If it were not for hundreds of thousands of pro-single payer faxes, emails, and phone calls constantly bombarding the White House, members of the Senate and Congress and the corporate media, along with the unceasing background drumbeat of sinbgle payer activism in towns and cities and rural areas and on the internet, there probably would never have been a public option proposed, and whatever Obama and corporate Democrats have given away in the last few weeks of negotiation would have been surrendered before the start of any talks at all.

The interval between now and Labor Day is a time for negotiation,a time for argument, a time for struggle. Nobody negotiates by giving up the store at the start. Just as salespeople learn that “no” is the start of the conversation, we have to let go of the notion, and let go of leaders with the notion that it’s wise and “pragmatic” to give up on covering everybody. We need to come up with new ways of formulating our real demand, which is Medicare For All. We need to press that demand in two directions — upward toward our elected officials and media, and inward to other ordinary people like ourselves.

Visiting the offices of elected officials is critically important, but not more important than communicating simple, effective single payer arguments to the people we live, and work and worship among. If you know the difference between the shrunken and eviscerated public option and Medicare for All, you need to tell your mother, your auntie, your co-workers. You need to pass on simple effective and persuasive arguments and demands, like why not lower the Medicare eligibility age three years every January till everybody is covered. Why not?

It’s time to demand your representative’s vote when single payer reaches the floor later this year, and to insist that the ability for states who desire it to enact their own single payer legislation be retained in whatever bill is passed this year. Even if you do not support single payer, and just want a fair and effective public option, and coverage of the uninsured, know that single payer activism, single payer pressure makes your demands stronger. And get out there to make your demands too. It’s now or never.

This is a time to organize visits of half a dozen or more constituents at a time to the offices of your senator and representative, whether that person is a Republican or a Democrat. If you film that visit, we’ll feature it on Black Agenda Report, and if you’re near the Marietta GA office of Phil Gingrey, email me at bruce.dixon(at), and let’s plan to make that visit together with a few dozen of our closest friends. This is a time to join some single payer organizations and mailing lists. Pick one and join it, and take part in something, a mass co-ordinated mail or phone event or teach-in this month. If you’re a nurse or health care professional, you should be joining the mailing lists of the National Nurses Association and/or Physicians For a National Health Care program. You can contribute to and get involved with Single Payer Action, As kwame Toure used to say, pick an organization that’s going sixty percent of where you want to go, and join it. If you can’t find such an organization, start one.

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