Were it not
for a concerted drive by labor and other health care champions,
President Obama's White House Health Forum would not have included even
one supporter of single payer health care - the health delivery system
most favored by the American public. Obama makes a habit of shutting
real progressives out of the debate.
Single Payer Advocates Nearly Shut Out of Obama Health Forum
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Obama is making sure that any health plan that emerges will be palatable to the profiteers."
Obama is doing to the health care debate what he did to the anti-war
debate: first he co-opts the "left" and then excludes them from the
conversation. At the end of the process, the only people at the table
are Obama and his good friends on the Right.
In the case of health care, the
"left" represents a majority of the people of the United States, who
according to the polls, have long favored single payer, universal
health care. But, until the very day before last week's Forum on Health
Reform, the White House refused to invite even one advocate of single
payer health care. It took tremendous pressure by groups speaking for
the American majority before Obama's people relented and invited in
just two single payer supporters: John Conyers, the House Judiciary
Committee Chairman and author of the only genuine single payer
legislation, HR 676, and Dr. Oliver Fine, head of Physicians for a
National Health Plan.
It's not clear exactly what Barack
Obama wants, but it's certainly not the Conyers bill. By packing the
forum with folks of his own or more right-wing persuasion, Obama
created the impression that HE anchored the progressive side of the
American health care conversation - an effect he achieves only by
shutting out single payer advocates.
As New Jersey labor leader Ray
Stever said, "If anyone should be excluded from this summit, it should
be the representatives of the health insurance industry."
"At the end of the process, the only people at the table are Obama and his good friends on the Right."
Just as Obama likes to surround
himself with aggressive generals and Bush holdovers so that he appears
to be relatively peace-loving by comparison, he loaded up his Health
Forum with corporatists and Republicans who have no intention of taking
big business's obscene profits out of health care. Conyers and Dr. Fine
amounted to last-minute tokens who, after initial rejection, could be
expected to be grateful for being allowed in the room at all. Obama is
making sure that any health plan that emerges will be palatable to the
profiteers - just as his gradual Iraq slim-down is palatable to even
bloodthirsty war mongers like John McCain. The "left" - which on health
care means most of the public - will be relegated to the sidelines,
happy with the little they eventually get.
Dr. Fine, of the single payer
physicians group, reminds us that Bill and Hillary Clinton also
"excluded the voices of those who support a single payer system." In
the end, the Clintons wound up producing nothing. But the pressures to
do something have now become so great, we can expect some type of
"reform" at the end of the Obama game. However, he has set the bar so
low, and weighted the conversation so heavily in favor of the health
profiteers, the fundamental system will remain - and with it, the
highest health costs and most unevenly distributed health delivery
system in the developed world. Unfortunately, we will likely be stuck
with the results for at least the next ten years. Just like we'll be
stuck with Obama's wars - unless we finally get wise to his game.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.