A Choice: "Bi-Partisanship" Vs. Real Healthcare For Americans

01/09/2009 09:52 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Yesterday, Tom Daschle testified in his confirmation hearing for secretary of health and human services. He promised "bi-partisanship", pledging "I really want to work in a collaborative way. It's the only way we're going to get this done." Which made me think: if that is the path we take, millions of Americans will be left ill and bankrupt for another generation or more.

True, to be honest, I am not a supporter of "bi-partisanship". I don't believe that you work together with people who destroyed our economy, are trying to kill labor unions and, just for the heck of it, have devastated the world with an illegal, immoral war. Our message should be: we're in charge now, we're going to fix what you destroyed and we welcome you for the ride--or leave you to explain to voters why you stood in our way.

But, in particular, healthcare is no place for bi-partisanship. We have learned so much about the criminal behavior of the insurance industry, particularly from nyceve and DrSteveB that it defies imagination that we would put do anything short of banishing the private insurance industry from the face of the earth. It would be immoral to do anything less.

In Daschle's remarks, I hear an echo of an extremely dangerous frame:

"When health care reform collapsed in 1994," Mr. Daschle said, "I remember all the criticisms people had after the fact. They said it took too long, they said the process was too opaque, they said the plan was too hard to understand and they said the changes felt too dramatic.

"These are good arguments for undertaking reform in a way that is aggressive, open and responsive to Americans' concerns," he said. "They are not good arguments for ignoring the problem."

Respectfully, former Sen. Daschle is repeating the same frame we heard from Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries: the collapse of the health care reform was about opposition to the process and the proposal put forth by the Clinton Administration. That is, the "reform" was so deep that it generated opposition from the healthcare industry.

Part of that story is true: the healthcare industry did oppose the Clinton healthcare plan. But, the conclusion Daschle and others drew from that experience is that what they need to do is "reform" healthcare in a "bi-partisan" manner which means negotiating with the Republicans--and, through Republicans (and too many Democrats), with the private insurance industry.

I would argue that that is the wrong conclusion. The real conclusion that we should reach from the debacle of 1994 is that we have to kill the private healthcare industry. We cannot negotiate with an industry that has no interest in the health of Americans. It's only interest is to make obscene profits.

The only solution is to enact single-payer health care, or, better put, "Medicare for All". It is the only economically sound proposal--the only system that will remove hundreds of billions of dollars of health care costs off the backs of millions of Americans, not to mention the bottom line of small and large businesses throughout the country.

There is not a single Republican that I know of--please correct me if I am wrong--who supports single-payer. So, pardon the expression, when it comes to the health and income security of millions of Americans, screw them and screw "bi-partisanship".