AFL-CIO Excludes Single Payer from Its Health Care Survey

2009 Health Care for America SurveyIn an attempt to find out what union members think about the health care crisis and its solution, the AFL-CIO recently asked union members and supporters to complete a health care survey: <

The problem with the survey is that it does not present the full range of opinions union members have, and nowhere in the survey is single payer, or Medicare for All, or HR 676 even mentioned as an option.  Question #21 in the survey offers only variations on keeping for-profit insurance companies in the center of health care:

Which one comes closer to your way of thinking? 
Select one for each grouping.


  • Government should have stronger rules and standards for health insurance companies.
  • Health insurance companies work best without too many government rules and standards.


  • Premium, co-payment and deductible costs required by insurers should be limited.
  • Insurers should be able to base premiums, co-payments and deductibles on market factors without interference.


  • Health insurers should provide a standard package of benefits.
  • Health insurers should cover benefits based on the policy you can afford and choose to buy.


  • Health care reform should let people choose to have private insurance or a public health insurance plan.
  • Health insurance should remain in the hands of private insurance companies.

There is no choice to go to a single payer, publicly funded system that covers all medically necessary care as in HR 676.

Everyone knows that single payer is supported by many within labor.  Over 500 union organizations, including 39 state AFL-CIOs and 126 Central Labor Councils, have endorsed HR 676, which is co-sponsored by 76 members in the House of Representatives.  Recently, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a friend of labor, introduced SB 703, a single payer bill, in the Senate.

Since a large section of unions and union members support a single payer solution to the health care crisis, it is unfair to construct a survey that completely ignores opinions of single payer advocates.

The AFL-CIO has a crucial role to play in the health care debate now unfolding.  It is important that those who speak for labor in this debate are able to reflect the vital and growing single payer sentiment within our union movement.

We encourage you to write President Sweeney,, and urge him to include the single payer choice in the survey seeking the views of union members on health care.  You could also fax President Sweeney at: (202) 508-6946.

Andy Coates, MD is a steward in the Public Employees Federation (PEF), AFL-CIO, a statewide New York union affiliated with AFT and SEIU.