Monday, June 1, 2009

Baucus to meet with single-payer advocates

According to the group Single Payer Action, Sen. Max Baucus is planning to meet with five prominent single-payer advocates in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Dr. Marcia Angell—the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and one of the nation’s most outspoken proponents of single-payer—confirmed the meeting with me this morning in via e-mail.

According to Single Payer Action:

On Wednesday June 3, Senator Baucus will meet with Dr. David Himmelstein, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Oliver Fein, Associate Dean, Cornell Weill Medical School, and President of PNHP, Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, and Geri Jenkins, president of California Nurses Association.

“Bowing to mounting pressure from single payer advocates around the nation, Senator Baucus has asked to meet with some representatives of the single payer movement,” Dr. Himmelstein said. “It’s the thirteen people who braved arrest at Senate Finance Committee hearing, the hundreds of single payer supporters who’ve shadowed Senator Baucus in his home state of Montana, and the thousands who have put pressure other members of Congress who have created this opening. We have no illusions that our discussions alone will persuade Senator Baucus to back a single payer bill. But the meeting is a clear indication that demonstrations and activism can move even our money-corrupted political culture.”

I don’t know that I have seen a movement in Montana as genuinely grass-roots as the single-payer advocacy I’ve seen in recent weeks. All you had to do was attend one of the 20 listening sessions Baucus’ staff held around the state last week (see photo above: The majority of participants at a health care listening session in Anaconda raised their hands when asked by a member of the audience if they think all Americans — including members of Congress and the president — should have the same level of health insurance coverage). These weren’t highly organized volunteers of some political action group. In fact, Phil Campbell, one of the primary organizers of Montanans for Single Payer, wasn’t even in the state at the time the hearings took place. He and his wife were hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Apparently, the single-payer advocates’ efforts have at least cracked open the door.

At the same time a corporate-funded organization called Patients United Now—a group fighting to halt health care reform—had a hard time drawing more than 30 people to a rally in downtown Helena on Friday. And they enticed people with the promise of free food.

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