by Mike Hall, May 10, 2011
Last year, when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it was a “historic milestone on our path toward a more just society,” says AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, “But we also know that much work is left to be done.”
That work includes moving to a single-payer, universal health care model as called for by the AFL-CIO Convention in 2009 and today in the America Health Security Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).
Speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference, Holt Baker said:
We in the labor movement have long insisted that health care is a fundamental human right and an important measure of social justice. And for more than 100 years, we have fought for universal health care coverage based on a social insurance model, an approach that has proven to be cost-effective and efficient in countries across the globe and in this country to provide health security for seniors.
Jean Ross, R.N., and co-president of National Nurses United (NNU), says the bill will “create a more just health care system.”
Providing a single standard of high-quality care for all is a priority for registered nurses who have seen their abilities to act as patient advocates made more difficult as for-profit interests control more patient care decisions.
Sanders says the fight for universal health care “is the civil rights battle of our time.”
The legislation establishes a national health care program that requires each participating state to set up and administer comprehensive health care services as an entitlement for all through a progressively financed, single-payer system, as administered by the states. Benefits emphasize primary and preventive care, and free choice of providers. Private health insurance sold by for-profit companies continues in the form of supplemental coverage only. Says McDermott:
If an insurance company’s objective is to make a profit rather than deliver health care, a patient’s best interests may not always be in the forefront of their thinking. Decisions are made by accountants and actuaries, not necessarily on the basis of what’s best for the patient.
The program will be progressively financed, including a surcharge on high-income individuals and a tax on securities and other financial transactions.
“Let’s face it,” says Sanders in a guest column in the Guardian:
until we put patients over profits, our system will not work for ordinary Americans.