National single-payer advocate at the Capitol

By Casey Seiler
Albany Times Unions, June 1, 2011

Dr. Garrett Adams, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, is swinging through the Capital Region meeting with fellow advocates for a single-payer health care system, and doing interviews with Susan Arbetter of “The Capitol Pressroom” (listen to the podcast of this morning’s show here) and WAMC’s “Vox Pop” (coming later this week).

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that Adams and my sainted mother, notorious Twitter enthusiast and letter-writer Harriette Seiler, have worked on this issue together for several years in my hometown of Louisville, Ky.

Although the overall results of the 2010 elections could be read as a fairly strong rejection of the push for a single-payer system — popularly known by the shorthand of “Medicare for all” — Adams says the cause is “alive and well.” He’s heartened by more recent developments such as Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s decision last week to sign into law legislation that would create a single-payer program for the Green Mountain State, which could become operational by 2014 if Vermont receives necessary waivers from the feds.

“For the first time, a U.S. governmental entity has said that health care is a fundamental right for everyone in the state,” said Adams, who noted that he was seeing “a lot of energy” on other state plans, as well.

Even so, he called the Vermont plan a “work in progress,” and said he remained disappointed that the bill allows for the continued involvement of private insurers.

Adams, a pediatrician who began his day joining in grand rounds at Albany Medical Center, made it clear that it isn’t just critics of what’s been described as a government takeover of health care who remain disappointed in the federal Affordable Care Act. Those advocating for a government takeover of health care see it as a half-a-loaf measure that will ultimately evolve or fail.

“That law will have to be replaced,” Adams said. “It was a large step forward in many ways, but it falls short.”