Some Californians rally for single-payer health care system

The Sacramento BeeOctober 13, 2009 

Some critics of the Obama administration's plan to remake health care call it a government takeover of medicine. But Kathy Dennis doesn't think it goes far enough.

Dennis, 49, a registered nurse from Woodland, wants the government to dismantle the private health insurance industry and replace it with a single, government-run insurer.

"I believe we need universal health care, and I believe in a single-payer system," said Dennis, 49. "Insurance companies are out to make money, and the way they make money is to deny you health care."

At a May rally in Washington, D.C., Dennis marched in her red scrubs alongside hundreds of other nurses, chanting slogans backing a single-payer plan.

They might as well have been shouting into a howling wind for all the impact they had. On Capitol Hill this year, single payer is a non-starter. Even a much more limited "public plan" option for health care faces a major fight.

"People aren't really fighting for what would be the best reform," said Deborah Burger, a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa and co-president of the California Nurses Association. "Is it a lack of personal will or lack of political will? There's a whole bunch of people who say they support it but aren't moving it along."

"We get lectured about what's politically feasible," she said. "Of course it won't be politically feasible if you don't push for it."

Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento was sharply questioned on single payer by constituents at the health care town hall she hosted Saturday.

Eric Vega, a single-payer supporter, chided Matsui for endorsing the more limited public option that he said would not be enough to provide access to the country's estimated 46 million uninsured.

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