Single Payer on the Hill

PNHP and nine other organizations (Public Citizen, AMSA, NOW, Healthcare-Now, Gray Panthers, National Nurses United, All Unions Committee for Single Payer H.R. 676, Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Progressive Democrats of America) co-hosted the first-ever National Lobby Day for single-payer legislation on May 22 in Washington.

Related activities included a national panel discussion on “Single Payer: Where do we go from here?” convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the day before. See details below.

PNHP's Dr. Andrew D. Coates spoke at the single-payer panel.
While most of the lobbying activity was based in Washington, where 74 advocates from 18 states walked the halls of both the House and Senate to meet with their lawmakers or their staff, there were at least 11 additional “in-district” meetings with congressional staff around the country. PNHP members played an important role at both levels; we fielded about 30 physician-volunteers in D.C. Our D.C. chapter co-chair, Dr. Robert Zarr, helped lead the effort on the Hill.

At end of day, at least 39 members of the House had been urged to support H.R. 676, Rep. John Conyers’ “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act” (there was also some advocacy for Rep. Jim McDermott’s bill, H.R. 1200), and at least 33 members of the Senate had been asked to support S. 1782, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “American Health Security Act.”

Thousands of petition signatures calling for a single-payer system, chiefly collected by Healthcare-Now, were presented to lawmakers, and PNHP members from around the country (at least 51 who we know of, because they reported back to us) augmented the effort by participating in a national call-in campaign to ask House members to support H.R. 676.

At least one congressman, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking House Democrat, has since signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 676. Clyburn’s signature, which resulted from a joint effort by many people, including key PNHP members in South Carolina, brings the current number of co-sponsors to 57.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ panel on single payer

The day before, on May 21, Sen. Sanders held a panel on single payer at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where, in addition to Sanders (who produced this report), Dr. Andrew D. Coates spoke for PNHP, Rob Weissman spoke for Public Citizen, Dr. Margaret Flowers spoke for, Michael Lighty spoke for NNU, and where UMass economist Gerald Friedman spoke about the efficiencies of a single-payer system.

You can read about the Sanders panel at Kaiser Health News or the DCMediaGroup site. You can watch a video of the full proceedings here.

A congressional briefing the next day included remarks by Rep. Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., along with remarks (on video) by Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

Altogether about 100 single-payer advocates participated in the two days of activity.