DeGette: No single-payer health care system

by Lesley Politi on April 15, 2009

DENVER (Map, News) – Colorado congresswoman Diana DeGette says there’s momentum to reform health care and the goal is to produce a bill by August, but it likely won’t be a single-payer, government-run system. The Denver Democrat told a large crowd Tuesday of the Denver City Club, a civic organization, that the consensus is not whether, but how, to reform the country’s health care system. DeGette was health care adviser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. DeGette said the goal is clear: Quality, affordable health care for every American. Nearly a century after President Theodore Roosevelt called for universal health care, DeGette said, 47 million Americans don’t have health insurance. “It’s a sad truth that the United States is the only industrialized nation in the Western World that does not guarantee health care for its citizens,” said DeGette, the senior member of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

A Tuesday report by Families USA, a national advocacy group for health care reform, said 1.4 million Coloradans were uninsured at some point in 2007-2008. The report said nearly 77 percent of them didn’t have coverage for at least six months during the two-year period.

DeGette called the numbers of uninsured morally unacceptable and financially unsustainable.

DeGette has reached across the aisle to help pass bills on embryonic stem cell research, only to have President George W. Bush veto them. She was on hand in March when President Barack Obama signed an executive order overturning Bush’s limit on federal funding for the research.

As vice chairwoman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, DeGette has been asked to bring different interests to the bargaining table. But she took aim at those she called “fearmongers” who warn about a government-run system.

“Actually, some people here might support it, but I’m here to tell you that socialized medicine is not coming to America,” DeGette said.

A single-payer system lacks political and public support, DeGette said. But reforms must maintain features important to Americans, including freedom to choose doctors and plans and freedom from government interference, she said.

Proposals might be similar to Massachusetts‘ health care system, which requires nearly everyone to carry insurance, subsidizes the needy and helps others enroll in lower-cost, non-subsidized insurance plans. DeGette said it’s important that people keep their coverage even if they lose or change jobs.

Congress has already expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program to provide health care for more low-income children. Health insurance also was extended for the unemployed.

DeGette said it’s especially time for changes because people are losing health care coverage when they lose their jobs. The country will be hamstrung in a 21st Century economy if it sticks with its expensive and inefficient system, she added.

The United States spends more than $2 trillion annually on health care. It ranks 24th among countries in women’s health, 29th in infant mortality and 31st in life expectancy, DeGette said.

“When it comes to health care, Americans pay so much more, but get so much less,” she said.

The congresswoman said Tuesday she plans forums across Colorado starting in June to hear constituent concerns and take them back to Washington.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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