By Ida Hellander, M.D.
There’s actually some good news for single-payer health reform in the midst of the generally negative midterm election news.
The good news:
* Peter Shumlin won in Vermont, so the state has a pro-single-payer governor on top of a large grassroots movement. Sen. Patrick Leahy was re-elected to office and is pro-single-payer; the same holds for Rep. Peter Welch, a co-sponsor of Rep. Conyers’ single-payer bill in Congress, H.R. 676. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of course, is a very outspoken supporter of single-payer Medicare for all.
* Jerry Brown won in California so that state also has a pro-single payer governor and a large movement (twice passing a single-payer bill through the state’s Legislature).
* Neil Abercrombie, who was a co-sponsor of H.R. 676 while he was in Congress, was elected governor of Hawaii. Many of Hawaii’s lawmakers have shown support for single payer.
* With 14 of 14 districts reporting, the ballot question for single payer in Massachusetts swept all of them, including some of the most conservative districts in the state and several that went for Republican Sen. Scott Brown in last year’s special election. The text of the ballot question reads as follows:
“Shall the representative from this district be instructed to support legislation that would establish health care as a human right regardless of age, state of health or employment status, by creating a single payer health insurance system like Medicare that is comprehensive, cost effective, and publicly provided to all residents of Massachusetts?”
* Only one of 87 co-sponsors of H.R. 676 was defeated in the general election by a Republican, Rep. Phil Hare of Illinois. (We lost seven other co-sponsors to death, resignation, defeat in the primary or retirement. Just one of those, Rep. Eric Massa’s old seat, went to a Republican.)
The bad news (a partial list):
* Sen. Russ Feingold, who ran on his support for the Obama health plan but is also a single-payer supporter, lost his Senate race in Wisconsin to a Republican.
* “Freedom of choice” and anti-mandate ballot initiatives passed in Arizona and Oklahoma (but was rejected in Colorado). An excellent article explains how these initiatives are anti-single payer measures.
* The Minnesota single-payer movement was set back by a Republican takeover of the state Legislature. The governor’s race, which includes a pro-single-payer candidate, is still too close to call and is undergoing a recount.
* Rick Scott of Columbia/HCA fame, which paid a $1 billion fine for Medicare fraud, won the governor’s race in Florida.