Single Payer Advocates Say Bernie Sanders ‘Not A Fighter’

Ron Sachs / CNP/Newscom

Universal health care advocates called on President Obama and progressives in Congress the scrap both reform bills on Capitol Hill and “start from scratch” on a bill that creates single payer coverage for all Americans at at press conference today. They specifically aimed fire at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who they called too weak to vote no on the Senate health care reform package they say doesn’t go far enough.

Russell Mokhiber, the president of Single Payer Action, said he had “low expectations” that Sanders would vote to stop the bill his group says is nothing more than a “bailout for health insurance companies.”

“We have had a history of fighters in the Senate,” Mokhiber said today. “Bernie Sanders is apparently not that.”Sanders has been a vocal single payer advocate who has hinted he’ll vote no on a bill that doesn’t meet criteria, including a stronger public option, the single payer advocates say they support. But in the end, the single payer advocates at the press conference today said they expected he and other “Congressional progressives” will be unable or unwilling to stop the bills and call for the process to start again with the goal of creating a universal coverage system.

The press conference was held by four of the self-described “Baucus Eight.” The group was arrested back in May at the start of the Senate Finance Committee’s debate on a health care bill with they disrupted the hearing over what they called chairman Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) to hear testimony from single payer advocates.

The four said they still hoped Congress would scrap the progress it has made on reform so far and start over with a universal coverage bill, but they all agreed it wasn’t likely that Democratic leaders would heed the call.

Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians For A National Health Program said the current bills in Congress are “designed to fail” and will ensure that lawmakers will have to come back to the health care reform debate “in a matter of years.”

“Our concern is that if something is passed this year, people will think ‘this is done, we’ve taken care of this,”” she said.