The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Posts Tagged ‘single-payer’

Let’s put a real fear of socialism in them

In Legislation Today on August 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm

National, or federal, health insurance is not a revolutionary new idea.

In 1883, Chancellor of Germany Otto von Bismarck — a staunch conservative, he was known as the “Iron Chancellor” — instituted a national health insurance plan for workers. Why? Because he was trying to woo them away from the Social Democratic Party. In other words, 126 years ago people were demanding national health insurance and Bismarck found it necessary to deliver.

And fifty years later  in the U.S., it was considered a “practical possibility.”

In 1933, before accepting the job of secretary of Labor that Franklin Roosevelt had offered her, Frances Perkins read FDR a list of nine social programs, “practical possibilities,” for which she asked his support. After 12 years as secretary of Labor, she wrote him a resignation letter. In the letter, dated December 1, 1944, she enumerated all they had done together. This is the last part of the letter:

With one major exception all the items we discussed as “among the practical possibilities” before you took office as President have been accomplished or begun. That exception is a social security item providing for some form of benefit to persons where loss of income is due to sickness and provision for appropriate medical care for the same. [emphasis added]

I hope that this will be upon your agenda for the near future.

Faithfully yours,
Frances Perkins

The president’s response was a short and witty letter saying that her resignation was “refused and rejected.” Unfortunately, FDR died five months later.

The need for a national health insurance program has been recognized for more than 100 years. But you’d never know it today. Perhaps the usually non-political writer Jesse Kornbluth, who has an idiosyncratic blog called Head Butler, said it best (talking about the Obama administration’s effort):
This is leadership? How about staking out a position (say: single-payer) and selling the hell out of it? How about calling out the Congressmen (Democrats included) who are owned and operated by insurance agencies and telling us exactly how much they’ve been paid to vote against their community’s interest?
This issue is not beyond explanation. And there are actual facts involved. But all the lazy sots on TV care about is where the ball sits on the field and who’s got momentum. And can we have a brief sneer at the demagogues in the media and the Congress who know better but take pleasure in scaring people with talk of “death panels” and “socialism”?
It’s great to read a “rant” by someone whose regular topic is not politics. The fact is, a majority (72%) of the American public agrees with Jesse and would like to have single-payer option (see my July 16th post for details).
Maybe it would be better if those demagogues Jesse refers to were truly worried about socialism — worried that Americans would turn to a more radical form of socialism if we didn’t get single-payer health insurance. Hey, the “Iron Chancellor” was worried; why aren’t they?

Single-payer proponents ask for a seat at the table

In Legislation Today on May 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

The Senate Finance Committee, under Chair Max Baucus (D-Montana), has been holding hearings on health care reform, one of which was held last Tuesday. Proponents of a single-payer health care system–modeled on Medicare and, like Frances Perkins’s most significant accomplishment, Social Security, available to all–were upset that they did not have a representative at the table at any of these hearings. Jerry Call, who attended our conference on May 2nd and spoke up there for the single-payer system, was one of the protestors at the May 12th hearing. Here’s a YouTube video of that event (Jerry appears after about 7 minutes).

Here’s what Jerry said at our conference, talking about the discussion that took place in the Health Care for All workshop:

We’re basically faced with two choices. In probably June or July or maybe as late as August, the Administration will come out with a mandatory for-profit insurance program similar to what Massachusetts has done and failed at. And I think the sense of the group was that we’re pretty much going to lay down and accept it. We’re going to go with the political will of this mandatory insurance program. We’re not going to get a public program out of it. Not only is it not feasible, it’s not advisable. And Baucus already said last week that he is putting it aside, which is the same thing as if  he said it is off the table. It’s off.

So the other option to that is, the other side that we discussed was, well, we could be idealists, if you will. We could step out there and try to do something about it. We could stand up for our principles and say “Let’s go out and let’s demand a single payer Medicare for all system.” So that’s the simple choice. I mean, you can either go out and demand it or you can just lay back and take what Obama will give you. Which is a mandatory for-profit insurance system.

On the same day as the Senate Finance Committee Hearing, May 12, sent an email to members asking them to call their senators and urge them to make sure that a Medicare-based health insurance option stays in the president’s plan. They claim that the Republicans are planning to kill that option:

Luntz wrote a confidential memo that laid out the Republican strategy: Pretend to support reform. Mislead Americans about the heart of Obama’s plan, the public health insurance option. Scare enough people to doom real reform.

If you want to know more about that public health insurance option, check out The Case for Public Plan Choice in National Health Reform: Key to Cost Control and Quality Coverage by Jacob S. Hacker of Berkeley. Here’s the PDF: Jacob_Hacker_Public_Plan_Choice