Posted on July 13, 2006

A Telephone Worker Responds to Andy Stern on Single Payer Health Care


In a June 16th speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, Andrew Stern, SEIU President, attacked a Canadian style single payer health care system as irrelevant to the U.S. A report on his speech, filed by Press Associates (PAI), was posted on the International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) website at:

Video and Transcript of Stern’s speech.

John Horgan, a Boston area telephone worker, wrote the following response to Stern. Horgan works for Verizon where he is a union steward in IBEW Local 2222. He is active in the Greater Boston Jobs with Justice Health Care Committee. He and other health activists have won 8 out of the 10 Massachusetts representatives to co-sponsor HR 676, Conyers’ single payer health plan. He can be reached at

Stern dismisses single-payer and wonders why business isn’t leading the fight for healthcare reform

After reading an article by Mark Gruenberg, a staff writer for Press Associates Inc., it was important to watch the Kaiser network video of S.E.I.U President Andrew Stern for a firsthand account of Mr. Stern’s comments on health care.

It was obvious that President Stern is as troubled about the out of control costs of health insurance as any American. It was also obvious President Stern has no constructive solution. He spoke of the health care crisis in America without offering a single constructive idea as to how this crisis can be addressed. Instead he blames politicians and business for their lack of leadership on this issue. He also belittles the concept of a single-payer system while complaining that American business can’t compete with countries that have single-payer systems.

First to address the question of why business leaders are not out in the street demanding health insurance reform… after the tax breaks, the cost shifting, and the gutting of the health-care plans, the business of American business is simply business. The American workers are out on the streets, but American business is out of the country. In President Sterns’ labor pool you can’t janitor, doctor, or nurse etc…from out of the country. He represents a service based membership that works inside the U.S. in jobs that don’t compete in the global market. The car industry, as well as many other industries, competes globally. What is the major difference between a G.M. worker in Canada and one in the U.S.? The benefit cost of health insurance.

Now to answer the question why is health insurance so expensive? Let’s start with the big ticket item of administrative costs… 39% of every dollar in this private employer-based model of health insurance goes to administrative costs. This model leaves 45 million uninsured, millions more underinsured and is also a cost driver of the insurance premium.

Premiums for health insurance policies are subject to the size of the liability pool. The larger the shared liability pool, the cheaper the premium. This is because the burden of the ill is disbursed across a larger number of people. Mr. Stern illustrates this exact point when he refers to the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.

A single-payer solution is the only way to reduce costs, (Medicare administrative costs are 3%), guarantee universal coverage (eliminate means testing, not worth the bureaucratic funding), and mandate quality care. The sorry excuse of a tax fear is no reason for condemning single-payer. As to real estate taxes … towns are breaking under the for profit burden of health insurance for their employees; state taxes could use relief brought about by a 36% savings in state employee health plans; federal employee health benefits could be even less expensive if the shared liability pool grew to every citizen in the country… thus reducing our federal tax dollars on the portions currently going to federal employee benefits.

A single-payer system would reduce concession bargaining, lower the likelihood of strikes, and reduce taxes with the cost savings it would create. This would be funded by the tax dollars we already pay, the tax dollars businesses don’t have to pay currently, as well as the fair share from businesses that have long skipped out on their fair share.

We have many leaders in Congress as well as in the Labor movement demanding a national single-payer plan. They have provided the single payer solution in H.R. 676. They choose to be constructive and take stands, not to sit on the sidelines and condemn. They are the leaders, and it is through their efforts that this crisis will be resolved.

John Horgan ibew 2222 boston

This discussion article was circulated by:

All Unions Committee for Single Payer-HR 676 c/o Nurses Professional Organization
1169 Eastern Parkway #2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551

HR 676 now has 72 congressional co-sponsors in addition to John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI).
It would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care. HR
676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

HR 676 has been endorsed by 155 union organizations including 28 central labor councils, two state AFL-CIO federations (KY and PA), and
3 area labor federations.

For further information and a complete list of union endorsers contact Kay Tillow at (502) 636 1551.