, , , , , ,

Endorsed by the SEIU, UFCW, Bricklayers and Teamsters and none other than DLA Piper Law Firm partner and former MO Congressman, Richard (Labor) Gephardt, the Illinois Health Care Reform Plan is off to a flying start. And if that isn’t enough the plan has now been endorsed by John Sweeney for the AFL-CIO.  Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association (CNA), and Executive Board Member of the AFL-CIO, is definitely not amused. She calls the endorsement, “unfortunate”.

  The program, an employer based state health insurance reform plan has been pushed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  DeMoro, along with the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) have severely criticized employer based “reforms” as undermining to the nationwide single payer movement. 

According to Michael Lighty, public policy director for the CNA, the plan is very similar to the plans introduced by California’s Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and Hillary Clinton’s candidate’s proposal.

They all take the current system and try to make it meet our current human health care needs.  We think that is wrong.  You can’t do that.  Private insurance by definition makes money by denial of care.  And you can’t meet the needs of people through that approach.  That’s why we support single payer.

Lighty went on to say that the Illinois plan “keeps the health insurance industry at the apex of power and diverts the momentum for single payer.” But he notes that just because the AFL-CIO has endorsed the Illinois plan it does not mean that they do not support single payer. The single payer movement in the labor movement is a bottom up effort and at least 300 locals support single payer. There are also 26 state AFL-CIO labor federations and 70 labor councils that support single payer.  Lighty states that there is no reason that the CNA cannot work with those supporters within the labor movement.

The California Nurses Association is no newcomer to the health care reform battle.  They have put blood, sweat and tears on the line for reform. In fact they passed a single payer bill in the California legislature last year, which was unfortunately vetoed by The Arnold. Only four votes in the Senate and six to eight votes in the Assembly were needed to override the veto.  Schwarzenegger’s compromise bill is currently moving through the California legislature and, of course, will put insurance back in the picture. 

And what does Blagojevich have to say about all of this.  Well, this is what…:

So much of what you do in politics is done through political realities. The art of politics in government is the recognition of what is possible.  The choice is between whether you take an existing structure – an employer based health care system and build on that, shore that up … or whether you scrap the whole thing and create a whole new system that has not yet taken root in the United States.

C’mon Rod, you can do better than that!  Did anyone ask Illinois employers if they want to continue to play on  the roller coaster  with insurance?  Perhaps if you were truly interested, you could find a plethora of polls that show that a majority of Americans would love for a single payer system to “take root”, if only the “artful” politicians would allow it to happen. And political realities generally have to do with big money donors or do you think we don’t know that.  I think overall,  this is what Lakoff calls “surrendering in advance”.

One bright spot in the picture is the fact that so much candidate energy (at least on the democratic side) is going into the health care reform debate. And the discussion centers on what kind of reform, rather than “should we reform”.  And that, I think, should be viewed as good.  But, if the economy worsens, the issue of health care may very likely take precedence over the Iraq war in the coming election.

Now let’s see, are Harry and Louis still on the Riviera?