UNION NEWS SERVICE
Mark Gruenberg, Editor
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PHONE: (202) 898-4825
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February 16, 2004
SINGLE-PAYER HEALTH CARE
ADVOCATE URGES UNIONS TO JOIN
By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer
WASHINGTON (PAI)--A longtime advocate of single-payer government-run
national health care is urging unions to dump the present employer-run health
care system and join his campaign.
Quentin M. Young, an internist from Chicago and national coordinator of the
Physicians for a National Health Program will succeed is open to question.
he admitted in a February talk at the AFL-CIO, unions helped construct the
present health care system "and labor has a stake in it." But Young argued that
system is broken, with 44 million people lacking health insurance and millions
"Labor has been
the key" in the success or failure of all health care proposals, Young said.
"We haven't had" government-run national health care in the U.S. "and labor has
been a reason we have the employer-based system.
"I need more
commitment from labor because it won't happen without you," Young
split on how to deal with the health care system. For example, the United Food
and Commercial Workers is now battling to preserve health insurance coverage for
70,000-locked out Southern California grocery workers.
But the Paper,
Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE) is dedicated to pushing
single-payer national health insurance, President Boyd Young says.
And last year, Steel Workers Legislative Director Bill Klinefelter pointed out,
USWA got a 65 percent federal health care tax credit for steel workers who lost
their jobs due to dumped foreign imports.
"What is being learned, however, is that 65 percent is not enough. It still
costs the (jobless) workers $1,000 per month. They're finding the safety net
isn't there," Klinefelter said.
Health care is
heating up on the campaign trail, too. And Young said the political climate
must change to force Congress and the White House to adopt government-run
Canadian-style national health care. Though Young did not say so, current GOP
White House occupant George W. Bush adamantly opposes it.
Gov. Howard Dean, an M.D., and a Democratic presidential hopeful, is lukewarm to
single-payer health care, Young said. "He told the Vermont legislature when he
was governor that he would veto it. Now he says, 'I don't think it's practical,
but if it reached my desk, I would sign it.'"
Democratic hopefuls, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the current primary
leader, also have comprehensive health care plans. One, Rep. Dennis Kucinich
(D-Ohio) is an outspoken backer of single-payer national health care, which PNHP
pushes. Kucinich has co-sponsored legislation on the issue and advocates
abolition of the health insurance industry.
Young spoke five days before PNHP released a survey of 904 physicians, randomly
sampled by Harvard Medical School, which showed 64 percent favored national
health insurance. The study, in the Archives of Internal Medicine,
showed 10 percent backed managed care and 26 percent support the present
And 70.3 percent of the doctors "rejected allowing the insurance industry to
continue playing a major role in the delivery of medical care," it said.
Young also argued that the spiraling cost of U.S. health care--$5,800 per person
per year, three times as costly as the next-most-expensive nations--and its
increasing unavailability are reasons to switch to a national single-payer
Such a system,
he said, would reduce overhead by eliminating the insurance bureaucracy, freeing
more money to treat people.
"We have the
resources" for health care, Young noted, adding that government--through
Medicare, tax benefits, the National Institutes of Health and grants--already
pays for 60 percent of the nation's $1.7 trillion health care cost.
noted, many workers must sacrifice wage increases in order to keep health care
coverage. Though he did not say so, the 70,000 UFCW members in Southern
California--now locked out, have offered to take small wage hikes, at most, in
return for continuing health coverage.
Young admitted the
1992 defeat of President Clinton's universal health care plan--based on the
present system--"marginalized" the issue, even as he called Clinton's plan "a
bad bill." But, he said, "The issue is rising again, because the health care
system is in such bad shape."