James Floyd, M.D., Health Researcher, Health Research Group at Public Citizen
Today, Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program will testify before the full U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions – the first time all year that a single-payer advocate has been invited to participate in a Senate hearing on health reform. Dr. Flowers’ participation today, and Wednesday’s hearing in the House dedicated to single-payer, are clearly the result of the groundswell of public support for single-payer. At town hall meetings and rallies throughout the country, Americans have demanded to know why Congress has failed to consider the most popular reform proposal, one supported by a majority of the public.
But inviting single-payer advocates to speak at hearings doesn’t go nearly far enough. We should also be included in the closed-door meetings that congressional leaders are holding with so-called “stakeholders” – the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies – to shape health reform legislation. Also, the Congressional Budget Office should score single-payer along with any other reform proposals. Lastly, all major committees dealing with health reform legislation, including the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, should hold dedicated hearings on single-payer. There is a great deal of misinformation about single-payer that needs to be clarified, including the difference between a “public” option and single-payer.
By excluding single-payer from hearings throughout the year, Congress decided that protecting the profits of an industry that adds no value is more important than providing quality health care to all Americans. But the public has demanded an end to this obscene silence on single-payer.