AUSTIN, Texas – Affirming that “every person deserves access to affordable, quality health care” and noting that area residents are not getting it, the Austin City Council called today for the enactment of a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance program.
At its regular Thursday meeting, the Council voted to endorse the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, H.R. 676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and 91 other members of Congress. The vote was six in favor and one abstention.
In taking the action, Austin joined at least 24 other municipalities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Louisville, Ky., that have called for the bill’s passage.
Also known as the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, Conyers’ bill would guarantee everyone access to all medically necessary care, including prescription drugs, with no co-pays or deductibles. It would contain costs by eliminating the administrative waste and bureaucracy associated with the private insurance industry, and it would assure patients their personal choice of doctor and hospital.
Speaking to a local reporter shortly before the vote, Council Member Lee Leffingwell, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said, “This is not socialized medicine. It is basically the same system we have now in the form of Medicare, just more broadly applied.”
Leffingwell told KLBJ-AM radio he was reluctant to get involved in national issues, “but … about 20 percent of our residents don’t have health insurance, and that puts a heavy burden on our area hospitals and our network of social service providers.” Council Members Mike Martinez and Randi Shade joined him in co-sponsoring the measure.
The Council’s action follows on the heels of a similar endorsement by the U.S. Conference of Mayors at its June meeting in Miami. Several religious denominations, most recently the Presbyterians and Unitarian Universalists, have also endorsed the single-payer approach, as have over 400 labor organizations, according to the resolution’s backers.
Bill Holloway, an activist with Health Care for All Texas who helped promote the Austin resolution, said: “This vote is a major victory for those who want to see a more just, rational and compassionate health care system in our state and nation. The resolution makes it clear that managed care and other private insurance company schemes have been miserable failures when it comes to providing care or containing costs.”
“We need to convince our lawmakers in Washington that a more equitable and sustainable system of publicly financed care is possible not tomorrow – but today,” he said. “The people of Austin have spoken: we want single-payer health care.”
Dr. Ana Malinow, a Houston-based pediatrician who serves as chairperson of HCFAT and president of Physicians for a National Health Program, said: “As a physician, I see the toll our broken health care system takes on people’s lives every day – too often leading to their financial ruin, unnecessary suffering, early disability or death. The Austin City Council, by its vote today, has pointed the way forward to a cure – single-payer national health insurance.”
Health Care for All Texas (www.healthcareforalltexas.org) is a statewide grassroots coalition that believes health care is a human right.
Physicians for a National Health Program, a membership organization of over 15,000 physicians, supports a single-payer national health insurance program. To contact a physician-spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312) 782-6006. Spanish-speaking physician-spokespersons are also available.