Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No More Compromise

Earlier in his political career, Barack Obama supported single payer health care. A single payer system would provide free, universal and quality health care for all citizens. Every major industrialized democracy has some form of single payer health care.

It is a national disgrace that over 47 million Americans have no health insurance. Private health insurance companies’ primary objective is maximizing profits for shareholders. They actually increase profits by denying coverage. Many health insurance companies refuse to sell or renew policies due to a person’s health status. In addition, they deny coverage for treatment of certain pre-existing conditions. Moreover, due to escalating premium costs, fewer employees will be able to afford health insurance in the near future. According to a new Commonwealth Fund report, health insurance premiums increased “119 percent between 1999 and 2008, and could increase another 94 percent to an average of $23,842 per family by 2020 if cost growth continues on its current course.” [1]

To build a census to address this crisis, President Obama embraced a pragmatic approach. He has rejected the proposal of U.S. Representatives John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich for single payer legislation, United States National Health Care Act H.R. 676. In attempt to reach a compromise, the private companies would continue to provide health care insurance. However, under America’s Affordable Health Choices Act H.R. 3200, citizens would have an option to enroll in a public insurance program. H.R. 3200 would prevent companies from refusing to provide coverage based on an individual’s health status or pre-existing conditions. The legislation includes “new data collection efforts to identify and address racial health disparities.” Finally, people will receive credits to purchase private or public insurance.

Despite efforts to develop a bipartisan compromise, most Republicans and the Blue Dog Democrats continue to oppose the President’s health care plan. The right wing critics have called President Obama a socialist. A lunatic fringe has even compared him to Adolf Hitler. Instead serving as a medium to convey a clear message to the American people, the town hall meetings have degenerated into chaos. Consequently, the President’s poll numbers are declining.

Under intense pressure, the Obama Administration has expressed a willingness to eliminate the public option, the cornerstone of any progressive legislation. The public option was designed to create competition in the market place. As the summary of H.R. 3200 states, the public option "will be a new choice in many areas of our country dominated by one or two private insurers today."

Eliminating the public option will allow insurance companies to continue to raise costs. Their monopoly over the market and the political process must be brought to an end. The President has already compromised by rejecting a single payer system and by proposing to establish credits to enable more citizens to purchase in private insurance.

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters[2] is correct. The time for bipartisan cooperation is over, no more compromise. The Obama Administration needs to enforce party discipline and start twisting arms to bring the Blue Dog Democrats in line with the President’s agenda. The President and progressive members of Congress should reject any proposal that does not include a public option and they should support the Kucinich Amendment. That amendment would allow states to establish their own state based single payer health care plans. Surrender is not an option.

[1] Commonwealth Fund, New Report: Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Premiums Increase 119 Percent from 1999-2008; Project to Double Again by 2020 (August 20, 2009).

[2] Rong-Gong Lin II. “Rep. Maxine Water a hard liner for public health care option.” Los Angeles Times. 23 August 2009.


  1. Where you wrote, "Despite affords to develop a bipartisan compromise, most Republicans and the Blue Dog Democrats continue to oppose the President’s health care plan..." had you meant "Despite efforts to develop..." instead?