Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Single Payer Advocates Nearly Shut Out of Obama Health Forum

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."

 Barack 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.

Direct download: 20090310_gf_healthcare_reform.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:45pm EDT