by Russell Mokhiber, Single Payer Action, January 22, 2019
HR 676, the gold standard single payer legislation for the past sixteen years, is no longer.
The House Democrats have decided that their single payer Medicare for All bill will not carry the HR 676 number.
They let that number go this week to a bill that reiterates “the support of the Congress of the United States for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”
Some in the single payer movement see the abandonment of HR 676 as a betrayal of years of grassroots activism, activism that drew 124 co-sponsors to HR 676 in the House last year.
Now, with Democrats in charge of the House, the Medicare for All single payer bill is being rewritten, watered down and renumbered.
“For the past 16 years, HR 676 was our gold standard bill defining a national improved Medicare for All single payer healthcare system for the United States,” said Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit for Everyone. “It was based on the 2003 Physicians Working Group proposal by Physicians for a National Health Program.”
“Now that the Democrats can no longer ignore that their base is demanding a single payer health system, we have lost both HR 676 by number and its status as the gold standard. From what we have heard, as we have still not seen the text of the draft as promised, the new health bill being written by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) has an unnecessarily long transition period and maintains the for-profit providers in the system. The delayed transition means more preventable deaths and suffering. Keeping the for-profits means higher costs and lower quality of care.”
Jayapal’s bill is being written behind closed doors.
Last month, single payer advocates called on Jayapal to share the draft text of HR 676 with the single payer movement for review and input. She has refused.
Kay Tillow of Unions for Single Payer says that “unless the movement acts quickly to assure HR 676’s ban on for-profit institutions is maintained, Jayapal’s new bill will remove this vital section of HR 676.”
“It’s a compromise that there is no need to make,” Tillow wrote recently. “We are getting hearings in this Congress. Why should we take the impact of the for-profits out of the discussion before the debate starts? We gain nothing. The ban on for-profits has been in HR 676 since the beginning. It did not stop 124 congresspersons from signing on to it. It did not stop unions, organizations, cities, counties, and many others from endorsing it. It was one of the popular provisions that all of those who have dealt with these for-profit hustlers welcomed.”
Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance didn’t miss the irony of losing HR 676 to NATO on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. It was King who said – “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
“Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-California) the son of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, took HR 676 and turned it into a bill to support NATO,” Zeese said. “NATO is no longer a defensive force against the non-existent Soviet Union but has become a military aggressor working with the US in illegal wars among them Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya. It has not only expanded to cover most of Russia’s border with bases, missiles, and troops but has spread to Colombia which borders Venezuela, another nation the US is threatening with war.”
“To top it off, on April 4, the anniversary of the murder of Dr. King, NATO will be holding a 70th-anniversary meeting in Washington, DC. This is also the anniversary of King’s Beyond Vietnam speech. In that speech, King warned that ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.’”
“Congressman Panetta’s replacement of healthcare for all with military aggressiveness exemplifies that spiritual death.”
Russell Mokhiber is a writer, editor and long time advocate for single payer in the United States.