We Must Make It Toxic for Politicians to Not Get on Board with Single Payer

Democracy Now!, July 19, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: Proponents of a single-payer healthcare plan are organizing to urge Congress not only to stop the effort to repeal Obamacare, but to pass a bill that would guarantee Medicare for all. On Tuesday, former Vice President Al Gore became the latest prominent Democrat to speak in favor of single payer.

AL GORE: The private sector has not shown any ability to provide a good, accessible, affordable healthcare for all. I believe, for example, we ought to have a single-payer healthcare plan.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program. She was arrested Monday at the Hart Senate Office during a protest against the Republican healthcare bill.

Dr. Paris, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about your latest arrest, what you were calling for?

DR. CAROL PARIS: I’d be happy to. The reason that I decided to get arrested was to really make it clear that, as physicians, we not only oppose any bill that is going to be hurtful to Americans—and this bill clearly is hurtful, leaving 22 million people off of insurance—but we also champion and advance Medicare for all. That is really the plan that’s going to accomplish what both President Obama and President Trump have said that they support, which is better benefits, lower costs and more coverage. It’s just that the ACA hasn’t been able to accomplish that, and neither is what the Republicans are doing.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Bernie Sanders said on MSNBC’s All In show last night that while the [Affordable] Care Act is not perfect, it should be improved, not destroyed. He laid out his suggestions for how.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: What we need to do is, among other things, in my view, lower the cost of prescription drugs, save consumers, save the government substantial sums of money. What we need to do is provide for a public option in every state in this country. What we need to do is lower the cost, lower Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55, and then begin the process of doing what every other major country on Earth is doing, and that is guaranteeing healthcare to all people as a right, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Dr. Carol Paris, if you can parse that out? First of all, is that what you are calling for? And explain what this would mean, what it means to save Obamacare and then move forward with single payer or Medicare for all.

DR. CAROL PARIS: What it means to save Obamacare, or to save the ACA, is to continue the cost-sharing subsidies, to continue to support Medicaid expansion. But I absolutely don’t agree with Senator Sanders that the way forward is to have a public option and lower the Medicare age from 65 to 55. That is more incremental steps, and it absolutely fails to accomplish what a national single-payer, Medicare-for-all plan does, which is put everyone in the same risk pool. That’s how we garner the half-a-trillion dollars, $500 billion, of savings in administrative waste and profit of the for-profit insurance industry. If we create a public option, we’re just creating another opportunity for the insurance companies, the health insurance companies, to put all the sickest people in the public option and keep all the healthiest young people in their plans. So, no, I don’t agree that doing this incrementally is a good idea. We really need to go forward now to a national, improved Medicare for all. And really, the bill in Congress, HR 676, Congressman Conyers’s bill, is the way we need to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, also, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has expressed her support for single payer. But we don’t see that movement in the Senate or the House, even with 676, which has been introduced for years. It would take political capital on the part of many senators and congressmembers to push this forward.

DR. CAROL PARIS: It would. And I think the way we’re going to do this is, we’re not going to wait around for our members of Congress to say, “Now it’s politically feasible.” If we wait for that, we’re going to be waiting for the rest of my life, your life and many more lives. What we have to do is more of what is happening in Congress right now. It’s like Occupy Congress. And that is, having the American people join in a movement of movements. I got arrested. I was sitting in the paddy wagon with four other people, including three young millennials, incredibly energetic young people, and we discovered that we all represented different organizations and didn’t know anything about each other’s organizations. And yet, we had all been arrested together, championing—opposing the BCRA and championing Medicare for all. So, it’s going to take a movement of movements, and it’s going to take the American people making it toxic for our elected officials not to get on board with this.

We have to take the lead, and they will follow.


PNHP’s president, Dr. Carol Paris, has a very important message for all of us, and she is willing to be arrested to be certain that message is delivered. What is her message?

WE CANNOT repeal the Affordable Care Act, as some Republicans would, and walk away, leaving tens of millions of Americans in a more precarious situation for their health care.

WE CANNOT walk away if and when we win the battle to save the Affordable Care Act since it has failed to deliver to all of us the promised better benefits, lower costs and more coverage.

WE CANNOT stand idly by as members of Congress profess pragmatic, “politically feasible” incrementalism while barely moving the process.

WE CANNOT incrementally enact the insufficient measures of a public option and lowering the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55, as Bernie Sanders says he would do, because that would bring to an abrupt halt the drive for single payer reform, delaying reconsideration for decades, if ever.

WE MUST MAKE IT TOXIC for members of Congress to not immediately get on board with championing single payer – an improved Medicare for all.

WE HAVE TO TAKE THE LEAD, and they will follow.

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