SEIU, California Nurses at War Over Single Payer
23 Corporate Crime Reporter 2, January 7, 2009

The SEIU and the California Nurses Association (CNA) are back at it again.

The two labor unions have been feuding – most recently last year over union organizing of health care and hospital workers in Ohio.

But the biggest feud is yet to come – over a single payer, Canadian style, public health insurance system.

The nurses are in favor.

But the SEIU says – not now.

“The next step in this process is not going to be a single payer national health care bill,” SEIU President Andy Stern said in a conference call with reporters today. “The outline that Barack Obama and Max Baucus have begun to flush out is where there is common ground. We’re obviously part of many different coalitions, with the Business Roundtable, with AARP, and the National Federation of Independent Business. We can see a path forward. But the next step is not going to be for single payer. The next step is going to be building on the system we have, maintaining the employer based system, filling in the gaps of coverage, and beginning to focus on what America really needs to do besides coverage – which is prevention, technology, effective medicine – and in the long run – cutting the cost of health care, because this budget cannot sustain the continued increase in health care costs at the rates they have been.”

Stern favors the Obama/Biden health care plan, which would create a public system to compete with the private insurance companies.

But CNA argues that if you keep the private insurance companies in the game, they will cherry pick the younger healthier customers, leaving the sicker, older population in the public system – making it unsustainable.

Stern says that doesn’t have to be.

“The idea of a public system is a question of design,” Stern said. “The design here is not to allow the insurance companies to cherry pick the best patients and leave the unhealthy ones in the public system. We are not talking about a catastrophic system for people who can’t otherwise get covered. I think we’re talking about an absolutely competitive system under the same rules and regulations to see if a public plan can be successful.”

It can’t be, says CNA’s Chuck Idelson.

“Australia tried something similar and it didn’t work. Any reform which leaves the insurance companies in charge of our health care system will not work,” Idelson said. “How is the public system going to be able to financially compete with these multi-billion dollar corporations? Private companies will advertise and offer cheaper plans. They will be bare bones plans which offer minimal services with very high deductibles and other high out-of-pocket costs. Who will that appeal to? Younger, healthier patients. If you are older or sicker, you won’t be able to use those plans because of the higher deductibles and limited coverage. As a result, the public system will be bankrupted and the private insurance companies will be making tons of money.”

“There is no regulation which will effectively prevent the private insurance companies from cherry picking,” Idelson said. “No one is proposing regulating what they can charge. None of the proposals other than single payer reigns in price gouging and profiteering by the insurance industry.”

“Insurance companies don’t do what they do because they are evil,” Idelson said. “It is how they are set up. A lion doesn’t eat zebras because the lion is evil. It’s in the genetic make up of the lion. Same for insurance companies. They are not in business to provide care for people. They are in business to make profits for shareholders.”

If in fact the Obama plan will bankrupt the public system, they why is Andy Stern supporting it?

“SEIU leadership has been very opportunistic and self promoting in its campaign on health care reform,” Idelson said. “They have repeatedly formed alliances with companies like Wal-Mart – whose principle agenda is not repairing our health care system. The motives of SEIU in this campaign are at best questionable.”


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