Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chicago Doctors, Nurses Make Case For Single Payer | Progress Illinois

by Angela Caputo

With the White House's final health care forum taking place in Los Angeles yesterday, advocates for a single-payer system rallied in downtown Chicago, determined not to be sidelined in the debate anymore. Among the nurses and doctors who denounced the insurance industry for hijacking and diluting a public mandate for reform was Quentin Young of the Physicians for a National Health Program. He said it's time to put an end to "the profit motive gone mad-system" that's "a catastrophe in the making" for the nation's economy.

One by one, nurses and doctors took to the mic to talk up single-payer as the best approach for patients, as well as businesses. They also warned that the White House-favored alternative would do little to rein in insurance companies that continue to put profits before quality coverage. As one nurse from Cook County's Stroger Hospital put it this afternoon, "We don't have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to get behind it."

There are now two bills floating through Congress -- Rep. John Conyers' (D-MI) HB676 and Sen. Bernie Sanders' (D-VT) Health American Security Act 2009 -- that would essentially extend Medicare to all Americans. But as these activists know all too well -- and as Luke Mitchell masterfully reported in a recent issue of Harper's -- the culture in Washington, D.C. is not at all friendly to the idea.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) once again put single-payer on the agenda here in Illinois by introducing HB 311 (one of a handful of state-level single-payer proposals floating around the country). At the rally, she said, "We shouldn't be talking about how much health care is going to cost us because we're spending the money already." Indeed, in a Progress Illinois column penned last year, Young spelled out how such a system would pay for itself in the state.

While Flowers' proposal -- which has 37 co-sponsors-- didn't make the cut among the flurry of bills that passed out of the Illinois House last week, Young said Gov. Pat Quinn, his old friend and fellow health care advocate, might be just the person to push the bill as a real solution for stabilizing the state's finances.

But if there was one common theme at the rally, it was this: If single payer is going to advance at either the state or federal level, it will happen because concerned citizens make their voices heard and begin to rival the insurance industry's influence.

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