Supporters of single payer health care -- many of them people who've worked on this issue for years and paved the way for today's universal health care debate -- recently launched an online petition asking MoveOn staff to consult MoveOn members on the best way to win health care for everyone.
The issue at hand is MoveOn's participation in the Health Care for America Now coalition, an alliance of groups including SEIU, Planned Parenthood, AFSCME, and USAction who've launched a big effort to win universal health care. Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is supporting the National Public Health Insurance approach. The folks who are petitioning favor a Single Payer strategy and are asking us to consult MoveOn members on the question.
We're big fans of online petitions! And this one's reasonable enough.
In fact, we had already consulted MoveOn members on these two approaches.
Here's what we found:
On a pure policy level, most MoveOn members think both options are great. Many members would be thrilled to see single payer health care. Many also say they'd love to see national public health insurance. So we have no bone to pick with the single payer movement -- our members agree that if we could get there, it'd be a big step forward. And they believe that the Obama/HCAN policy would be a big step, too.
That brings us to the next question: How can we win, given the huge campaign we'll face from private insurance companies, HMOs, and pharmaceutical companies? So we asked MoveOn members which they think is the best strategy for progressives to take. The answer: Most MoveOn members think we should support a national public health insurance plan like what Health Care for America Now is talking about.
Here are the polls we sent to random samples of MoveOn members (our typical approach when we have a decision to make):
On a heated subject, it's impossible to write a poll in language that no one will differ with, so we've since sent several other polls to be sure this result wasn't just a function of how the question was written.
In one, we asked our members the same question without naming the supporters on either side.
In another, MoveOn staff didn't use our own words at all. Instead, we gave our members full-length arguments written by single payer leader Rose Ann DeMoro of the California Nurses Association and Health Care for America Now director Richard Kirsch.
The outcome: However we ask the question, our members prefer the strategy of pushing for national public health insurance.
Here are a few representative comments from MoveOn members explaining why:
I believe single payer is the best system, but I don't believe it will succeed in the U.S. at this time. Getting everyone covered and doing it quickly is my priority. I am a health care provider (certified nurse-midwife) and I see people suffering daily for lack of insurance. I am unable to provide the basic care that women need because they can't afford to pay for it. I can't wait any longer for the system to be fixed in an ideal fashion. They need coverage now.
--Cheri V., Washington State
Forcing people to change is a set up for defeat and failure. Giving people options, choices, increases their freedom and decreases anxiety.
--Jonathon R., Louisiana
While I think the single payer plan is a great idea, I agree that people aren't going to like being told that they have to switch. I think they will be more likely to switch after they see how successful the single payer plan is.
--Brian V., Kansas
People who can afford their own don't want to be told what to do. So if they keep paying for their own insurance to retain that choice, why shouldn't they? But health care should be available to everyone else also. And if it does work, they'll eventually switch to it.
--Beth B., Indiana
MoveOn joined Health Care for America Now because most MoveOn members are aligned with HCAN's strategy -- and because we think it's essential to join together with other progressives since we'll need to work together to win.
If progressives succeed in electing Barack Obama, there will be a lot more strategic and policy decisions for us all to make together. For example, the details of an acceptable health care bill are yet to be worked out.
MoveOn's decisions on that and other questions will continue to be driven by MoveOn members.
I want to thank the single payer folks who initiated this conversation for their critical work raising awareness of the health care crisis and for engaging us in this debate. Right now, we have an important strategic disagreement. But this fight will take all of us, and I am hopeful that MoveOn members and our other partners in this movement will be able to work together going forward in pursuit of our shared goal: quality, affordable heath care for all Americans.