President Barack Obama might have backed off on single-payer health care since winning the White House, but the candidates hoping to succeed Bill de Blasio in the New York City Council have not.
“We all know that whatever reform we support, the health care system is broken,” candidate Bob Zuckerman told this newspaper. “I think he [Obama] is looking at the numbers and the Blue Dog Democrats he has to deal with and made a calculated decision - but we’re not giving up on singer-payer.”
Last week, single-payer advocate Rep. Anthony Weiner threw his considerable support behind Zuckerman and his bid to represent Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Street, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington and Boro Park in the 39th District, calling him a “serious candidate for a serious time” who will “push for universal health care.”
In addition to canvassing for his own City Council candidacy, Zuckerman says that he and his supporters have also been collecting signatures for a petition advocating for single-payer health care.
After much pressure and arm-twisting, Democratic power brokers have indicated that single-payer reform will eventually get a vote on the House floor.
Rival City Council candidate Gary Reilly agrees with Zuckerman that the American health care system is broken, and said that he favors Congressional legislation outlining single-payer reform.
“The Canadian and UK models along with much of Western Continental Europe offer a lot of examples from us to learn from,” Reilly said.
Brad Lander said that he looks forward to “taking action” as a New York City Council member and using the position as a “bully pulpit” to advocate for reform.
“I have been a supporter of single-payer since I was in college,” Lander said.
Josh Skaller insisted that single-payer health care reform should no longer even be a question.
“It should be a moral imperative,” Skaller said. “This system will make drugs affordable for middle-class American families by buying them in bulk, and assure that tax dollars go toward people’s health, not to managers and paper-pushers.”
John Heyer was unavailable for comment, but campaign manager Jesse Adelman said that his candidate has “advocated for a robust public option as proposed by the Obama administration.”
“Any health care reform that is passed by this Congress absolutely must have a public option,” Reilly said. “While I want a single-payer system, a reform that offers Medicare-like benefits to all would be a tremendous improvement.”
As the summer wears on, however, it appears less and less likely that even concessions considered profound and deeply troubling to progressives will be enough to survive the insurance lobby.
“The City Councilmember has a real bully pulpit in their district,” Zuckerman said. “Health care reform needs to be done on the federal level but we are out there [advocating].”
Last month, Rep. Dennis Kucinich proposed an amendment to the health care reform bill that gives states the ability to introduce single-payer systems on their own.
Skaller called the lack of single-payer care in the U.S. a “badge of shame” and said that if elected, he will “fight the powerful health insurance lobby, urge passage of single-payer health care, and work toward a day when all New Yorkers have coverage.”
“We pay higher rates than other advanced countries, even though 47 million Americans don’t have health insurance,” Skaller said.“So many families live paycheck to paycheck, knowing that if anything happens to their health, they may face bankruptcy.”