Saturday, March 7, 2009

Labor Takes Independent Path to Public Program for Health

Labor Asserts Its Solidarity; Public Programs Move UP; Markets Down

byPhil E. Benjamin

Robert Pear, the NY Times health columnist who seems to have the trust of those most concerned with achieving a universal health program wrote in today's [March 7, '09] NY Times, "In Divide Over Health Care Overhaul, 2 Major Unions Withdraw From A Coalition."

Well, it just wasn't two major unions, it was two major unions who represented the two major labor federations: Gerry McEntee, President of the Americana Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, chairs the Health Committee of the AFL-CIO; and, Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees Union which leads the Change to Win federation. That is all of organized labor.

And, their withdrawal from the "strange bed Coalition" with health industry corporate interests, is a major break with the collaborationist policies that could not yield a universal health program with a public program mandate.

They broke from the Health Reform Dialogue, which is headed by the American Hospital Association; but either directly or indirectly that group also contains the commercial health insurance industry and drug cartels. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America or PHARMA. This is the most backward and anti universal health care program in our country. But, it also contained the Chamber of Commerce, Blue Cross and Shield, and the very backward America's Health Insurance Plans. They were all part of that group.

The name of that collaboration has changed many times since it first was put together in the mid-1990s after the Clinton health plan was busted by the Health Industrial Complex.

Organized labor is now shorn of organizational commitments that held it back from taking a more progressive position, i.e., a public program that truly begins to solve the problems of health access and quality.

A lot of conjecture will be taking place over the next period of time; but, be sure that the Administration's two major Summits had a lot to do with this major policy shift: 1} Financial Responsibility [formerly known as the "Entitlement" Summit] held in February; and 2} Thursday's "Health Summit." The interaction between all the progressives in the Summit's or outside the room clearly has pushed those demanding that Social Security and Medicare be not just left alone but made stronger; and, those demanding a full public program for health to take stonger positions. Both Summits allowed people to speak their minds. And, the sum total of those minds was quite clear.

Insurance carriers are crying that a public program would drive them out of the market; they don't say that it is their policies that have drive 47 million plus people out of health coverage. Market solutions, the center piece of Reaganomics of the 1980s is now on the ropes. It needs to be put away for good.