About 40 single-payer healthcare supporters demonstrated outside of a speech by former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean in Seattle on Friday, demanding an end to the control of the healthcare system by for-profit insurance companies. Dean was in town to sell copies of his new book and to build support for Obama’s healthcare reform. In his speech he urged single payer supporters to back the more “reasonable” healthcare measures of the Democratic party that do not challenge the interests of the insurance companies. For more information about the bills in congress read The Obama Healthcare Plan: Democrats Refuse to Take On Insurance Companies.
A spirited crowd, made up of Socialist Alternative members, United for Single Payer, and other single-payer activists chanted for an end to the insurance companies control over the healthcare debate and held signs and banners calling for single-payer healthcare. Some protesters smeared themselves with fake blood and laid down on the sidewalk in a theatrical die-in to represent the 22,000 people that die every year from inadequate health insurance coverage.
People coming to hear Dean speak were all given leaflets explaining the case for single-payer healthcare as they entered the forum. Chants for single-payer universal healthcare could be faintly heard inside the event even as Howard Dean started speaking. After less than 30 minutes, Dean ended his speech to allow for questions and answers.
Protesters were inside and hoped to ask Dr. Dean the hard questions. They hoped to ask him why he claims now is not a good time to support single-payer even though 59% of people polled say they support it and his party has a filibuster proof majority. They hoped to ask him why he and his party continue to have closed-door meetings with the insurance companies and continues to exclude single-payer activists from the discussion. And they hoped to ask him if single-payer activists would have to start a new political party like in Canada to win true universal healthcare.
Unfortunately none of these questions were asked. Dean’s ushers carefully watched the single-payer activists and when they got their turn at the mic, the mics were shut off. The meeting instantly ended and Dean left the stage. All in all he was on the stage for less than 50 minutes.
Dean escaped having to answer these questions on Friday, but that doesn’t mean the questions will go away. Socialist Alternative and other single-payer activists will not stop campaigning for healthcare until there is free quality healthcare for all, and the power of the insurance companies is a distant memory.
With members and supporters of Socialist Alternative, as well as other groups joining the fight, we sent a clear message to Howard Dean, who was forced to walk past protesters covered in fake blood lying on the sidewalk – a somber reminder of the 22,000 Americans who die every year from lack of healthcare coverage.