Can Occupy Wall Street Push Us To Single Payer?

In the mid 1990s, I worked with an individual in Minnesota who fought hard to enact legislation for universal health care. His passion and desire to see health care reform that included coverage for all was as heartfelt as any I’ve ever seen. In what seemed (at the time) like a never ending legislative battle to change a health care system failing its people, I heard him say that he was going to round-up every three-ring binder report that had been done on the need for health care reform in the last year and just dump them all on the legislators’ desks and claim, “We don’t need another report. We need health care for everyone.” For the first time since I heard that, I feel we may be reaching the point of no more reports and binders. Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, I believe real action for single payer may be within our grasp.

Recently, attention has been focused – and rightly so – on the Occupy Wall Street movement as it continues to shine light on the simple reminder that it was Wall Street who caused the 2008 financial collapse. But lurking not far behind is the natural extension in the discussion for “We are the 99 percent.” The cry heard today from the Wall Street patriots in the streets can easily turn from “people, not profits” to “patients, not profits.” There’s little doubt that the continuing debate on health care will take center stage AGAIN during the 2012 presidential campaign. The Affordable Health Care for America Act will be under assault by many for various reasons. Only this time, the Occupy Wall Street Movement may finally empower people to no longer settle for corporate controlled heath insurance solutions.

Perhaps no one draws the parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the need for an Occupy Health Insurers better than Wendell Potter. The former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower remains one of the most vigilant and articulate spokespersons to call the health insurance companies what they are: corporations who value profits over the health of the people of our nation. In a recent column Potter points out but one of the horrific practices of the health insurance companies: the selling of “junk” insurance coverage to millions of Americans in 2014. He concludes that article by saying:

As I write this, the insurance industry and its corporate allies are lobbying the Obama administration to grant limited-benefit plans permanent waivers from that provision. If the White House caves in to their demands, millions of low-wage earners will be forced to buy junk coverage on January 1, 2014. That’s the date all of us will have to buy coverage from a private insurer if we’re not eligible for a public plan like Medicare or Medicaid. If you don’t want to be forced to buy junk, send the White House a message. Now.

As Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) always reminds us, the United States remains the only industrialized nation in the world with a for-profit health care system. The need to push the Affordable Health Care Act to do more should remain a primary goal for all of us in 2012. No more three-ring binders…no more studies…no more lobbyists. We need to move to single payer. The Occupy Wall Street movement has unleashed the simple reminder for all of us: We the People have a tremendous amount of power to bring positive change to our financial and social institutions. With Super Committees looking to put Medicare and Medicaid on the cutting block, we simply cannot take our eyes off the real prize: single payer in the United States. To help maintain a focus on this issue, we offer samplings of recent articles or blogs that continue to keep the issue of single payer in the spotlight.

Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote that the solution to health care is simple: single payer. It’s such an obvious answer staring us all in the face that we have missed the forest through the trees.

This summer, Rochester, Minnesota, physician Mark Liebow, wrote a column for Physicians For A National Health Program urging Minnesota to follow Vermont’s lead and become the second state to pass single payer legislation. With DFL Governor Mark Dayton’s hands tied with a Republican-controlled state house and senate, the task remains a big one. But with the momentum gained from Occupy Wall Street, the old rules may no longer apply.

Health Care-Now is an excellent blog that provides information and resources on what you can do and where activities that promote single payer are planned. Bookmark this wonderful site and keep it handy when you need information on the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of health care reform.

No more reports, no more binders, no more studies. As Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners Magazine said so eloquently back in 2009:

So let us have the moral dialogue and debate. Let’s take the best of who we are, the greatest parts of our tradition and use that to lead the way. The misinformation, falsehoods and outright lies that many are now circulating obscure the moral and religious core of this debate: that millions of people are suffering in an inequitable and inefficient health care system, and that too many powerful people are profiting from that broken system in defiance of the common good.

Occupy the health care for profit industry now in existence? Impossible you say?  After what we’ve witnessed the last few weeks, I’m no longer so sure.

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