Groups strategize for single-payer plan
President Barack Obama and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) rarely pass up a chance to snub single-payer health care — a term that means a government-run system. So opponents on the left who want their voices heard in the debate over health care reform are planning to yell a little bit louder as Congress considers creating a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
Their strategy is simple: By pushing hard for single-payer health care, a robust public insurance option ends up looking like a compromise Democrats could accept.
“The best way to get half the pie is ask for the whole pie,” said Katie Robbins, assistant national coordinator of Healthcare-Now, which will not endorse the public plan but acknowledges the strategy. “It is like horse trading.”
Healthcare-Now doesn’t have a seat at the White House negotiating table with other interest groups, including its chief nemesis, the insurance industry. So single-payer advocates have resolved to make their cause hard to ignore. Advocates say that by making the government the sole administrator of health care, the U.S. could save billions of dollars annually on reduced administrative costs.
Single-payer groups earned headlines in March by accusing the White House of excluding them from the first health care forum, and they eventually won seats. Last week, two of those groups — the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee — launched a Web ad campaign costing in the “low six figures,” targeting the five Democratic committee chairmen writing the health care legislation. On May 13, single-payer advocates will rally at the Capitol.