Baucus to meet with single-payer advocates

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will meet with liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other supporters of creating a single-payer national healthcare system--just about the only option for reform Baucus has openly rejected--on Wednesday.

Single-payer advocates have been hopping mad at Democrats, especially since last November's election swept President Obama into the White House and increased the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Despite past support of single-payer healthcare on the part of Obama and other prominent Democrats, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), the party in power has dismissed the political viability of a total federal takeover of the the healthcare system.

Baucus surely hopes the private meeting will include less shouting and fewer insults than he endured during the protests some of these same activists organized at several public Finance Committee meetings this
year. At those same meetings--in between calls for the cops to show up--Baucus promised protesters he'd sit down with them. Looks like it's going to happen.

Baucus has become infamous in Washington's healthcare circles for answering nearly every question about what will be in his health reform bill with the statement "Everything's on the table" but he hasn't been at all shy about blowing off the idea of a single-payer system.

"Everything's on the table, nothing's off the table. Nothing. Nothing, with the possible exception of single-pay," he said recently, for example. "I'm not going to waste my time pushing on something that
isn't going to happen," Baucus has said.

Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is the only member of the Senate who currently sponsors legislation to create a European-style government program that could provide healthcare to everyone in America.

Baucus and Sanders will be be joined by several prominent single-payer activists: Rose Ann DeMoro and Geri Jenkins of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (Jenkins is also a vice president of the AFL-CIO); Cornell's Oliver Fein and Harvard's David Himmelstein of Physicians for a National Health Program; and Marcia Angell of Harvard, an author and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, according to a press release issued by Sanders's office Monday.

- Jeffrey Young

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