But is it a fair fight? Why hasn't House Leadership asked CBO for a real cost comparison to public-option plans?...
By Ernest A. Canning on 8/4/2009, 10:01pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

In an update to Small Victory for a Long-Term Single-Payer Strategy, I reported that “Rep. Anthony Weiner, (D-NY) will...make a motion before the House Energy & Commerce Committee to...replace H.R. 3200 [the hybrid, "public option plan] with H.R. 676 --- single payer Medicare for All."

In exchange for Weiner's agreement to withdraw his amendment during the House Energy and Commerce Committee health care markup session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised to permit Weiner to bring H.R. 676 to a vote on the House floor.

But will the House leadership direct the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide a comparative cost analysis between single-payer and alternative plans so that Congress and the American people can make an informed choice? And why have they refused to do so so far?...

One of the core arguments on behalf of a single-payer system is cost effectiveness. Many of the figures --- like the fact that 31% of health care costs in the U.S. go to what I have called the unnecessary parasites, for-profit carriers and HMOs, as compared to administrative costs in the 1 to 2% range in single-payer countries --- are well known by those who have paid attention.

As Marcy Winograd, a progressive Democratic candidate for the Congressional seat now held by Rep. Jane Harmon (D-CA), notes in "Single Payers Crashing the Gates", the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that the "hybrid" public option plan advanced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) would require a federal outlay of a trillion dollars over ten years because most of taxpayer monies under the plan would go not to health care but to subsidies that would find their way into the coffers of insurance company CEOs and their Wall Street investors --- subsidies that would still leave 36 million Americans uninsured in 2019.

During his July 22, 2009 news conference, President Obama conceded that the only way we can insure that every American has health care coverage is through a single-payer system.

The CBO informed Winograd that it had not performed a comparative analysis between the hybrid, public-option plans and the single-payer plan embodied in H.R. 676 because Congress has not asked for it. When pressed, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) evaded Amy Goodman's question on Democracy Now! as to why a comparative CBO analysis had not been performed. He instead noted that H.R. 676 would be given a vote on the House floor.

For years, Waxman had been a co-sponsor of H.R. 676, but on Democracy Now! Waxman demonstrated that Democrats, like their Republican counterparts, are capable of staying on party leadership message, as he repeated the Obama talking point that single-payer would be fine if we were starting from scratch, but that we had to build upon the existing system.

As I observed in "Single Payer and the 'Democracy Deficit,' it is difficult, if not impossible, to build upon an utterly corrupt and unstable foundation.

Those who support single-payer and those who simply desire that Congress act on the basis of a comparative cost analysis prepared by the Congressional Budget Office, can sign a letter to Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders requesting that H.R. 676 be scored for a comparative CBO cost analysis.

The letter states, in pertinent part:

With the full House voting on this bill Members should be fully informed about the cost and other implications of HR 676. What will it cost to implement? What percentage of Americans will be covered? Are the funding sources sufficient? Will it add to federal spending or limit federal spending? Will it create jobs?

Some information is available to House Members on these issues, but a CBO analysis would provide a comparison to other health care bills which the CBO has scored.

Please order a CBO scoring of HR 676.

Understand what "we the people" are up against. The health care insurance industry spent $130 million in lobbying efforts, in the past quarter alone, to preserve its multi-billion dollar profits made at the expense of the health and very lives of the American people.

We are all aware of the degree to which corporate monies in the form of campaign contributions and lobbying, and limitation of corporate media coverage to corporate-sponsored candidates, has corrupted our political system. But the new tactic entails an effort to silence the people's voices at one of the oldest forms of democracy in these United States --- the town hall meeting. The staged wing-nut protests, discussed in Brad Friedman's recent post, are, according to Keith Olbermann, being staged by "a front group maintained by corporate funded Americans for Prosperity, now busing people all over the country to town halls." Their organized verbal assaults are being misrepresented in the right-wing echo chamber as reflective of how "we the people" truly feel --- this, despite polls showing that 2/3 of Americans favor a single-payer system.

By signing the letter to Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders you can help prove them wrong.

Of course, if "we the people" really wanted to be heard loud and clear, each of us could write our respective member of Congress, stating, in no uncertain terms, that we regard their vote on "single-payer" as a Congressional litmus test --- that a 2009 vote against HR 676 will trigger a search through organizations like Progressive Democrats of America for a candidate to replace them in the 2010 election.

UPDATE, 8/05/09: Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara announced they will hold a "one night only" public lecture explaining single-payer at Antioch University, 801 Garden St, Santa Barbara, CA on Monday, August 17 at 7:45 - 10:45pm, contact : Lois Hamilton vlhamilton1@cox.net. Let's hope they, and others who seek to make democracy work in this fashion, have a plan in place to deal with wing-nut disruptions, should they occur.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California State Bar since 1977 and has practiced in the fields of civil litigation and workers' compensation at both the trial and appellate levels. He graduated cum laude from Southwestern University School of Law where he served as a student director of the clinical studies department and authored the Law Review Article, Executive Privilege: Myths & Realities. He received an MA in political science at Cal State University Northridge and a BA in political science from UCLA. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).