CHICAGO – Health care activists rallied here to express their concern that the big hospital, insurance and pharmaceutical companies were “marginalizing” the single payer option in the discussion on health care reform currently before Congress. The activists were gathering in solidarity with a similar rally outside the White House Forum on Health Care Reform in Los Angeles on April 6.

“The single payer option, or Medicare for All, should be part of the discussion in Congress, said Frank Borgers, of the National Nurses Organizing Committee. “Unbridled corporate power has brought the banking and auto industries to its knees and we fear it will happen in the health care industry as well.”

The activists from the Physicians for a National Health Program and the National Nurses Organizing Committee say this marginalization comes at a time when the single payer option is the most popular among the American people.

The activists applauded Pres. Barack Obama’s recognition of the need for government intervention in the health care crisis, but expressed their concern about the proposal being advanced by the private health care industry.

They contend the proposal will preserve a central role for private insurance industry. They say mandates for health care coverage on the 47 million uninsured would lead to greater corporate profits but not greater coverage.

Dorthea Mott, a nurse at John Stroger Hospital, is an advocate of universal health care coverage. She said Stroger is one of the safety net hospitals for the 5 million most vulnerable residents of Cook and surrounding counties.

“The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has projected an $800 million Cook County deficit by 2012,” Mott said. “This deficit could be overcome with a single payer system. We want to preserve Medicare and to improve it.”

“We have good news, and bad news,” said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of PNHP. “The movement for single-payer has never been stronger. Over 66 percent of the American people want it.”

“We can’t leave the health care system in the hands of the corporate giants,” he said. “But we have been denied a seat at the table. The health care industry hasn’t been sleeping. They’ve been scheming to convert the entire system to a private health care system.”

In addition to the majority support for the single payer model, 59% of US physicians now back it.

Mark Almberg, speaking on behalf of PNHP, said one-third of every medical health care dollar is being wasted on administrative bureaucracy and profits for health care corporations. “$400 billion could be saved each year, enough to pay for a single payer system and to eliminate all co-pays and deductables,” said Almberg.

Young urged support for HR 676 introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a similar single payer bill in the US Senate, SR 703, The American Health Security Act. Young also urged support for the Illinois version of single payer, HB 311, introduced by State Rep. Mary Flowers with the support of 37 co-sponsors.

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