Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Baucus meeting with single-payer advocates

As I write this, a group of prominent single-payer advocates are meeting with Sen. Max Baucus to try to convince him to put single-payer on the table.

However, Clark Newhall, a Salt Lake City attorney, doctor and single-payer crusader, beat them to the punch this morning. Newhall was one of the first people in the country to publicly question Baucus on his affirmed stance that single-payer is off the table (here's the video). This morning Newhall attended Baucus' public breakfast in Washington, D.C. and challenged the Senate Finance Committee chairman on his position. Newhall sent me this e-mail immediately following the meeting (the embedded linke is mine):

Washington DC -- June 3 -- 8:30 a.m.

I just spoke with Max Baucus at length about single payer. More accurately, I listened to his views and tried to challenge them. Based on that conversation, I predict the following will happen today at the meeting that Marcia Angell, David Himmelstein, Oliver Fein, Geri Jenkins and RoseAnn DeMoro are having with him.

1 -- he will say what a candid and honest guy he is.

2 -- he will say that N-O-B-O-D-Y will vote for single payer in the Senate.

3 -- he will say that N-O-B-O-D-Y has a single payer bill in the Senate; he will not acknowledge SB 703.

4 -- he will say that the "60% of physicians want single payer"
statistic is false.

5 -- he will say that the American people do not want single payer.

6 -- he will say he knows the American people don't want single payer because politicians have a nose for what their constituencies want, mainly because most politicians want to get re-elected.

7 -- he will get nervous if anyone mentions the overwhelming support for single payer that the recent 'listening tour' in Montana revealed.

8 -- he will say that Americans are used to having employer-paid health insurance, and do not want to change.

9 -- he will deny that Medicare is 'uniquely American' and will shy away from using that phrase.

10 -- he will admit that the power of insurance companies has something to do with how the legislation is being shaped in the Senate but, when pressed on that, will reverse position.

11 -- he will rely heavily for his position on the proposition that Obama does not want single payer, and he may point to the recent flat statement of Obama to Sherrod Brown that single payer is off the table.

12 -- he will be obdurately and obstinately close-minded to facts, arguments and moral suasion.

13 -- he will act very involved and interested when the talk turns to 'paying for this' but will deny that single payer pays for itself.

14 -- he will give the impression that removing employer tax breaks for health insurance in some fashion is likely.

Those are my predictions. Let's see how close to the mark they are.

Newhall said he personally spent nearly $60,000 producing and running a series of television and internet ads –which are currently running on CNN, MSNBC, Comedy Central, The Game Show Network and other cable networks—promoting single payer. You can see the ads here. Newhall said those ads have generated more than 67,000 faxes to members of Congress.

“I’ve also collected something like 4,000 voice mails, transcribed them all, sent them off to Baucus and Obama. I just hand delivered about 2,000 of them this morning to Baucus,” Newhall said this morning.

I asked him if he thought any of it was getting through.

“F*** no,” Newhall said.

I’ll be following up on today’s meeting between Baucus and single-payer advocates later today. I’ll let you know if Newhall’s predictions came true.

On a related note:

Eight-one percent of respondents to an unscientific poll currently up on the Missoulian's Web site say single-payer should be included among the options for health care reform. In a similar unscientific poll in the Tribune two weeks ago (no link to the poll results, but here's the forum), 57 percent of respondents said single-payer should be considered.

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