Ferlo and Obama’s Former Physician Speak in DC on Expanded and Improved Medicare for All

It was a busy day for state Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) as he travelled to Washington D.C. to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Federal Medicare program by advocating for the passage of HR 676 – a single-payer healthcare proposal sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

Ferlo was joined by a busload of Pittsburgh advocates, along with thousands of physicians, nurses, union members, faith leaders, government officials, and healthcare reform advocates who also support single-payer.

Ferlo is considered to be a leader in the health care reform movement nationally. He is a tenured out-spoken advocate, and convening co-sponsor of a national campaign called State Legislators for Single Payer Health Care – HR 676.

This prominence earned Ferlo an invitation to speak at the National Press Club this morning, at an event that was held by Physicians for a National Health Care Program (PNHP) and featured keynote speaker Dr. David Scheiner – President Obama’s former physician of twenty-two years and a supporter of single-payer.

Speaking of President Obama, Dr. Scheiner stated that, “I support and admire him and consider him to be the most promising president of my lifetime, which stretches back to 1938. But I respectfully differ with him on his approach to health care reform.”

He continued by making the connection between celebrating the anniversary of Medicare, and advocating for single-payer, “Some critics attack single payer, arguing that under such a program, government bureaucrats will be between the patient and the physician. In the 40 years I have been practicing under Medicare, I have never encountered an instance where Medicare has prevented proper medical care. On the other hand, insurance companies frequently interfere and block appropriate care.”

Speaking on behalf of the State Legislators for Single Payer Healthcare campaign, Ferlo explained, “This campaign began with a call to action this past April, made by myself and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried of New York City. It now represents 119 Co-Sponsoring state legislators from 35 states who all have pledged their support for the passage of HR 676.”

Activities of the campaign have included the drafting of An Appeal to President Obama and the 111th Congress, which outlines the key arguments for a single-payer health care system, and is endorsed by all co-sponsoring state legislators. Today, a copy of the Appeal was delivered to every member of Congress, as well as President Obama, through the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Ferlo observed of the campaign, “interestingly, as the debate in Washington continues to repress the common-sense and cost-saving single-payer argument, more and more state legislators are joining.”

Ferlo was also invited to speak at an afternoon rally on the Upper Senate Lawn, which featured numerous congressional representatives, and was sponsored by Healthcare Now. He took this opportunity to add local perspective to his remarks, which he hopes will give Pittsburghers a strong sense of context for understanding the issue of health care reform.

“In the 1980’s, the Steel Industry deserted Pittsburgh, leaving thousands of families displaced and our local economy in ruins.” He continued, “It seemed like we were helpless, with the value of our lives and way of life reduced to a line item. This was the most egregious abuse of public welfare in the name of corporate profits that I had ever witnessed, until now.”

“In light of this history, my fellow elected officials at every level of government are duty bound to end the backwards madness that is the current profit-based health insurance system, and transform it into a human-rights based single-payer health care system,” Ferlo said.

Closing his remarks at the National Press Club, Dr. Scheiner noted, “Our nation is at a crossroads. We must not squander the opportunity of this momentous time. We must not give in to the insurance and drug companies and instead do what is right for all Americans. Please, Mr. President and Congress – enact an expanded and improved Medicare for all.”

Ferlo concluded on a similar note, “I urge and implore President Obama to veto any proposal that expands the influence of the private health insurance industry because this will inevitably be at the expense of working and middle class households in the city of Pittsburgh, my Senate district, and throughout America.”