Concise, compelling health message




This segment ‘frames’ the problem so that responsibility for the problem is properly connected to powerful institutions, and the ‘enemy’ is identified.

1.Our health system has become a genuine  life-and-death problem, because healthcare been swallowed by big insurers who maximize profits by minimizing care, manipulating the rules to avoid covering those most in need.[1]

2.The result is unreliable and unaffordable for the insured, at a per-capita cost twice as high as other advanced nations;[2] 45,000 deaths occur annually among the uninsured;[3] 31% of health care spending wasted on profits and bureaucratic overhead imposed by the for-profit insurer;,[4] and in return for our premiums and tax dollars, we get only the world’s 37th best health care.[5]


Emphasis is on broadly-shared moral values, not specifics of how reform would work, but rather what it would deliver

1. We need a "Medicare for all" system that guarantees quality coverage to all Americans, with everyone having the right to choose their own doctor, and without for-profit insurers dictating treatment to doctors or denying care to patients.

2. Such a system is supported by about two-third of the American people,[6] and 59% of US doctors,[7] although this majority public and medical support rarely  gets considered.[8]


This outlines specific steps your want your audience to take or specific policies to support

1. Right now, form is being mis-shaped in the hands of Congressional leaders have received huge campaign contributions from for-profit insurance, drug, and other health interests, and ruled the "Medicare for all" plan "off the table." [9]

2. While Medicare for all must remain our ultimate goal, our best strategy right now is probably to push for a public option under which all Americans  can choose to sign up for a Medicare-style plan.[10]




[1]  As Dr. Marcia Angell of Harvard Medical School points out, "Private insurers maximize profits mainly by limiting benefits or by not covering people with health problems. The United States is the only advanced country in the world with a health care system based on avoiding sick people." Dr. Marcia Angell, "Fix the system with Medicare for all,"  Boston Globe,  January 29, 2007.

[2]  Per capita- health costs in the US were $7,290 in 2007, compared with $3,601 in France. SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, quoted in | The Washington Post ,September 23, 2009


[3] Physicians for a National Health Program, "Harvard study finds nearly 45,000 excess deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage" available at http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/september/harvard_study_finds_.php


[4] Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein,"Administrative Waste Consumes 31 Percent of Health Spending¸" August 21, 2003, New England Journal of Medicine. After analyzing the costs of insurers, employers, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and home-care agencies in both the U.S. and Canada, they found that administration consumes 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending, double the proportion of Canada (16.7 percent). Average overhead among private U.S. insurers was 11.7 percent, compared with 1.3 percent for Canada’s single-payer system and 3.6 percent for Medicare. Streamlined to Canadian levels, enough administrative waste could be saved to provide compressive health insurance to all Americans. http://www.pnhp.org/single_payer_resources/administrative_waste_consumes_31_percent_of_health_spending.php


[5]  " The World Health Organization’s ranking  of the world’s health systems." Available at  
Source: WHO World Health Report - http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html

[6] A good  summary of this data is contained in Corporate-Managed Democracy: Health reform in the age of Obama," Z magazine, September 2009, available at http://www.zmag.org/zmag/viewArticle/22376

§        67 percent "think it’s a good idea [for government] to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens, as Canada and Britain do, with just 27 percent dissenting" (Business Week, 2005)

§        64 percent would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens (CNN Opinion Research Poll, May 2007)

§        69 percent think it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide health coverage to all U.S. citizens (Gallup Poll, 2006)  

§        59 percent support a single-payer health insurance system (CBS/New York Times poll, January 2009)

§        59 percent of doctors back a single-payer system (Annals of Internal Medicine, April 2008)

§        73 percent feel that health care is either in a "state of crisis" or has "major problems" (Gallup, November 2007)

§        71 percent feel that we need "fundamental changes" or to have the U.S. health system "completely re-built," compared to just 24 percent who wish only for "minor changes" (Pew Research Center, 2009)

[7]Roger Bybee, "The Doctors Revolt:Watchdogs of system are now biting their master, the big insurers," July 01, 2008 The American Prospect, available at http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/18376


[8] The "Medicare for all" or single-payer alternative has virtually disappeared from mention in the major corporate media.  See Kate Murphy, "Single-Payer & Interlocking Directorates
The corporate ties between insurers and media companies
." Extra! August 2009, available at www.fair.org/index.php?page=384; Study:" Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare Proponents of popular policy shut out of debate, March 6, 2009, http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/03/06-9. Even the NY Times’ public editor acknowledged  that the single-payer plan has not received its fair share of coverage from the Times. See Clark Hoyt, The Health Care Sprawl, NY Times, Oct. 11, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/opinion/11pubed.html?_r=1 


Hoyt’s discussion understates  the huge impact that the Times has in defining what is political "realistic" and "viable":

"The Times has focused its coverage on proposals that editors and reporters judge to be politically feasible, who means that tort reform, popular with conservatives, and single-payer health coverage, popular with liberals, have received relatively scant attention. Anger boiled over recently, when an article on Medicare-for-all, a version of single-payer, explained all the reasons it was dead, and arguments against it, without going into arguments for it. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a liberal media watchdog, urged followers to object, and I received roughly 1,000 messages.

"Katharine Seelye, the reporter, said she was trying to explain why Medicare-for-all was not going anywhere and provided links online to arguments for it. “I thought the substance of it had been dealt with elsewhere many times,” she said. But The Times had not seriously explored the issue during the current debate, and I thought FAIR had a point.

"The public option, a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers, favored by a majority in the Times/CBS News poll, has been covered extensively as a political story. But the substance has received less attention. Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, said she wondered if the paper had done enough. “If people had understood it more, would the politics have turned out differently?” she said. “I don’t know, and I’m not saying this from a point of advocacy.” Editors need to keep asking: Do their judgments about what is realistic become self-fulfilling prophecies?"

In other words, does the lack of serious coverage of the single-payer idea help to condemn it to political marginality? Give the consistent patter of dismissing and virtually disqualifying the single-payer plan from serious discussion, I would emphatically argue "Yes."

The singlepayer/"Medicare for all" plan received short shrift from mainstream media like the NY Times and Washington Post (although ironically, not in Business Week and the news pages of the Wall St. Journal ) during the 1993-94 debate,  and that dismissive attitude has continued into the present debate in 2009. See for example, Julie Hollar and Isabel Macdonald, "Media Quarantine of Single-Payer Continues Fifteen years later, public health insurance still taboo,"  Extra! June 2009, available at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3793; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting release, March 12, 2009, "Single-Payer Is So ’90s:Medical reporter warns against ‘government-run health system’, available at http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/03/12-8;  Dave Lindorff, "The New York Times Trashes Single-Payer Health Reform," Sept. 22, 2009, Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-lindorff/the-new-york-times-trashe_b_293930.html; Roger Bybee, single-payer dismissed, Z Magazine; Roger Bybee, "Media Miss Bigger Picture in HealthCare debate,

 Extra! May/June 2008


[9] Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus raked in $3 million in campaign contributions from the health and insurance sectors between 2003 and 2008, according to the Washington Post, amounting to 20 percent of his total contributions (based on Center for Responsive Politics data).  Moreover, former Wellpoint insurance lobbyist Liz Fowler played a central role in helping Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana write the committee’s bill, which is serving as the framework for reconciling the differences among the three main Democratic bills., as reported in the Indianapolis Star and other outlets.


[10] A NY Times/CBS poll released Sept. 24 showed a stunning 65% majority (with just 26% opposed)–for "the government offering everyone [emphasis added] coverage in a government-administered health insurance plan–something like coverage that people 65 and over get–that would compete with private health insurance plan.?"  A 47% plurality of Republicans favored such a plan. Significantly, none of the major Democratic plans defines a "public option in such terms."





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