Saturday, June 06, 2009

'Single-Payer' Supporters Challenge Democrats

When President Obama convened a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, N.M., last month, he wanted to talk about credit card reform. But many in the crowd had a different agenda.

"So many people go bankrupt using their credit cards to pay for health care," the first questioner said to applause. "Why have they taken single-payer off the plate?"

The "single-payer" activists had struck again. As Obama and congressional Democrats work to hammer out landmark health-care legislation, they face increasingly noisy protests from those on the left who complain that a national program like those in Europe has been excluded from the debate.

The White House and Democratic leaders have made clear there is no chance that Congress will adopt a single-payer approach -- named for the idea that a single government-backed insurance plan would pay for all Americans' medical costs -- because it is too radical a change.

That has not dissuaded single-payer activists, who have spent months hounding Democratic lawmakers and organizing demonstrations, including one that resulted in 13 arrests at a Senate hearing last month. The offensive continues this weekend with plans to swamp a series of "house parties" on health care hosted by Organizing for America, an Obama-backed project at the Democratic National Committee.

The movement poses both an opportunity and a challenge for Obama, who is able to position himself as a centrist by opposing a single-payer plan but who risks angering a vocal part of the Democratic base.


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