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Addendum: Ady Barkan added to witness list for House Medicare for All hearing

April 26, 2019

Topics: Quote of the Day

Medium.com, April 26, 2019

Dying healthcare activist Ady Barkan will travel from his home in California to testify at a Tuesday hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Rules regarding Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s bill to establish a Medicare for All single-payer health care system in the United States. Barkan, a husband and father to a young son, is a longtime progressive activist who captured hearts and minds when he went public with his diagnosis of terminal ALS and confronted Sen. Jeff Flake on a plane during the political battle over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. At the hearing, Barkan will speak to his own experience with the American health care system in the wake of his ALS diagnosis, underline the importance of including long term care coverage as part of Medicare for All, and address the need to ensure high quality health care to every American as a right. Owing to the advanced progression of ALS, Barkan will deliver his testimony using a computer system that tracks his eye movements and subsequently converts text into speech.

“For 100 years, visionary patients, nurses, doctors and organizers have fought to ensure that everyone in America gets the health care they need,” said Ady Barkan. “But time and again, our movement has been stymied by the corporations and people who make money off of our illnesses. On Tuesday, for the first time ever, Medicare For All will get a hearing in the United States Congress. I congratulate and thank Rep. Jayapal, Rep. Dingell, former Rep. Conyers and Sen. Sanders for their decades of leadership on this historic day.

“I am grateful to Chairman McGovern and Speaker Pelosi for making this hearing possible and inviting me to testify. Tuesday will be just the latest example of why I worked so hard to help Democrats win back the House in November. The American people have heard the message loud and clear: Republicans are bad for your health. Progressives have a plan to fix the American healthcare system once and for all. It will take immense effort and teamwork for me to attend this hearing, but that is what is required — from me and thousands of other healthcare heroes — to deliver us the change that the American people deserve.”

Barkan now requires full-time home care that costs his family $9,000 per month on top of what his insurance company will cover. Traveling from California will require Barkan, who is unable to move or feed himself independently, to board a plane with two full-time caregivers and will expose him to the risk of serious illness. Barkan founded Be A Hero PAC, a political organization aimed at harnessing people power to press for a more just society.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 30 at 10 a.m. Eastern

WHERE: United States Capitol Building, H-313

WHO: Ady Barkan, Progressive Activist

Rep. James McGovern, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Rules

To be live-streamed at: https://rules.house.gov

Follow Ady Barkan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AdyBarkan


Comment on Addendum:

By Don McCanne, M.D.

Activist Ady Barkan is laying his life on the line to try to advance the cause of health care justice for all by testifying in support of the Jayapal/Dingell Medicare for All Act of 2019. May he inspire all of us to do our utmost to deliver on the promise of single payer Medicare for All.

Thank you, Ady.

Original QOTD: The House hearing on single payer Medicare for All will likely be a sham

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Rules

Hearing: H.R. 1384 — Medicare for All Act of 2019

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 (10:00 AM)


Dr. Dean Baker
Senior Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Dr. Sara Collins
Vice President for Health Care Coverage and Access, The Commonwealth Fund

Dr. Doris Browne
Immediate Past-President, National Medical Association

Dr. Farzon Nahvi
Emergency Room Physician

Ms. Grace-Marie Turner
President, Galen Institute

Dr. Charles Blahous
J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Chair and Senior Research Strategist, Mercatus Center


Single-Payer Advocates Worry ‘Medicare For All’ Hearing Could Be A ‘Farce’

By Matt Fuller
HUFFPOST, April 25, 2019

When the Rules Committee convenes this hearing on Tuesday, there may not be any witness testifying who will make the case for Medicare for All over other health care plans.

“There is a heated debate right now about what is this best way forward,” Adam Gaffney, the president of Physicians for a National Health Program told HuffPost. “Medicare for All is one proposal. Medicare for All is the best proposal. Is someone going to make that case?”

Gaffney was actually one of the witnesses that single-payer advocates put forward to testify. But the Rules Committee nixed his appearance, along with those of more than a dozen other suggested witnesses.

It’s unclear who decided which experts would testify before the Rules Committee. Staffers on the Rules Committee say no one in leadership directly told them this person or that person couldn’t testify, but sources involved with the planning of the hearing say three criteria were applied to potential witnesses: (1) Is this person a leader of a single-payer group? If so, that person could not testify ― meaning Gaffney was out. (2) Is this person an activist? If so, they couldn’t testify. That meant people like Dr. Sanjeev Sriram, who has repeatedly advocated for Medicare for All, were ruled out. And (3) Has this person said anything negative about the Affordable Care Act?

That last requirement, implemented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top health care staffer, Wendell Primus, according to sources, is particularly an issue for some single-payer advocates, because they believe the hearing could turn into an exercise in which witnesses seem to endorse all sorts of different approaches to health care ― the ACA, a Medicare buy-in situation, and perhaps, maybe, Medicare for All.

A Pelosi spokesman, Henry Connelly, said in a statement that the Rules Committee had “free rein to choose whichever witnesses they wanted to articulate the strongest case for Medicare For All.”

While the Rules Committee and Pelosi’s staff contest leadership’s role in choosing witnesses, sources close to the process insist Primus was intimately involved.

Single-payer groups and activists are reflexively suspicious of Primus after The Intercept revealed that he had spoken to insurance executives and laid out his own objections to Medicare for All.

Primus also did himself no favors in a March 25 meeting with staff from a number of congressional committees that have health care jurisdiction. He reportedly said the Medicare for All hearing was a “check the box and move on type of thing.”



By Don McCanne, M.D.

The House Rules Committee hearing scheduled for April 30 is for H.R. 1384 — Medicare for All Act of 2019, a bill specifically calling for the enactment of the single payer model of Medicare for All. Yet highly qualified experts who support single payer have been excluded as witnesses. So who are the people that will testify?

Dean Baker is an economist who is co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, considered to be a left-leaning think tank.  He has expressed the view that “a single-minded focus on single payer” could waste “a great opening for progressive health-care reform.” This month he wrote, “lowering the Medicare age to 64 is a really big first step.” If each session of Congress lowered the eligibility age by another year, we would have Medicare for all in 130 years (though it is likely that intervening Congresses would have other ideas).

Sara Collins is vice-president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund – an organization with a mission “to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color.” She recently authored, “The “Medicare for All” Continuum: A New Comparison Tool for Congressional Health Bills Illustrates the Range of Reform Ideas.” The single payer model is at one end of the continuum.

Doris Browne is a retired Colonel of the US Army Medical Corps who founded Browne and Associates, Inc., a “small business that specializes in improving quality health outcomes through increasing awareness and inspiring behavior changes.” She recently served as president of the National Medical Association which advocates for prioritizing preventive care, preserving the health care safety net, and reducing health disparities. A search failed to reveal any position she may have previously taken on single payer.

Farzon Nahvi is an emergency room physician and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Health System. He is an advocate of “a universal healthcare system,” apparently for all the right reasons. It is reported that “Nahvi’s testimony is supposed to be limited to how patient experience would change,” so it is uncertain whether or not he will be able to testify on behalf of single payer.

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that supports “individual freedom, consumer choice, competition, and innovation in the health sector.” She has a long history of outspoken opposition to single payer reform.

Charles Blahous is senior research strategist for the Mercatus Center which claims to be “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas.” He recently authored an analysis of single payer, purported to be the version advanced by Bernie Sanders. The analysis was designed to discredit the single payer model, though it inadvertently demonstrated that the status quo was more expensive than changing to single payer.

So it appears that this is not a hearing on the single payer Medicare for All legislation, as advertised, but it is rather a hearing on not only the pros and cons of various models of reform that have been labeled Medicare for All but also likely will cover briefly the status of health care since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. What we will fail to see is a full explanation of the single payer model of Medicare for All and why it is vastly superior to the status quo or to the other options for reform.

They’ve stolen the ‘Medicare for All’ label, and now they want to bury it.

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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