Like a lot of people who operate inside the Beltway, Nancy Pelosi is very big on the common beltway wisdom. Unlike many, Nancy Pelosi has the power to make sure the common wisdom is heard. So when Nancy believed impeaching Dubya Busch was a bad move, she just said no, and the nation lost its best opportunity to bring the Busch criminals to the bar of justice.
Now, with the full support of common wisdom, Nan has declared single-payer health insurance off the table. “It’s not going to be single-payer,” she has already concluded, and she does not want to hear any more argument.
Few things scare Capitol Hill more than a big fight between the voters and the money boys, and there is nothing like the threat of a rational, single-payer health insurance system to bring the big money out of the woodwork. As Ralph Nader noted in a May 13 article in Time, “these politicians fear the insurance and pharmaceutical industries-and seek their campaign contributions-more than they fear the American people.”
Capitol Hill is so frightened of single-payer that Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus recently refused to include any single-payer advocates in a hearing. In a display of civil disobedience not seen in decades, eight single-payer advocates got themselves arrested demanding to be included. (If you want to see a real example of the arrogance of power as practiced in Washington, click this link.)
Since the first of the year, Sen. Baucus has held eight hearings and taken testimony from 54 different parties. There is no good explanation for his unwillingness to include one advocate for single-payer in the gang of 54… unless he fears the truth, that single-payer is the most rational, least expensive alternative to today’s complex health insurance mess. The good news is that the arrest of the single-payer advocates generated enough heat that there has been talk that single-payer will get its seat at the table, but that has not happened yet.
There is further intrigue on the House side of the Hill, where the Speaker has already made it clear she does not want to be confused with the facts. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has promised he will have a hearing that includes single-payer, but it has not been scheduled yet, and there is concern he may change his mind. (Should we wonder why United Health Group hired as its top lobby the former top lobby at Fannie Mae? A guy whose resume focuses primarily on the banking industry, including a stint as counsel to the financial institutions committee, and has no demonstrated subject matter expertise in health care? Could it be because he was also chief of staff to Hoyer?)
Anyone in reading distance of this should be writing their Congressperson and Senators to demand that single-payer get a full and fair hearing in this process. One place to cast a vote: Chair Bachus is asking for public comment on his policy alternatives to financing health care reform. The policy alternatives document includes an email where comments can be filed.