The Communists Behind Obama’s Health Care Goals – by John Perazzo

Meet the radical gurus who inspired the president’s vision of socialized medicine.


The polls have been clear for quite some time: By a substantial margin, Americans oppose the efforts of Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats to enact a massive overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, one that would greatly expand the federal government’s role.

Significantly, the President’s deeply held positions on healthcare were derived largely from the influence of a politically aggressive group of longtime Marxists whose worldviews were consistent with those Obama had already developed from other radical influences in his life. But before we examine who those particular Marxists were, let us establish, with certainty, what Obama’s long-term objectives for healthcare actually are.

As an Illinois state senator in 2003, Obama unambiguously told an AFL-CIO conference:

I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal healthcare [plan]…. That’s what I’d like to see.”

In a single-payer system, a government-run organization would manage the healthcare of every man, woman, and child in the United States—collecting all related fees and paying out all related costs.

At an SEIU Health Care Forum on March 24, 2007, Obama sang the same tune—though this time he conceded that the attainment of his ultimate vision might require a gradual, incremental approach:

“There’s going to be, potentially, some transition process. I can envision a decade out, or 15 years out, or 20 years out…”

In the summer of 2008, when a campaign audience member asked him to comment on single-payer healthcare, Obama candidly replied:

“If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system.”

Earlier this year, however, the President—recognizing the American public’s opposition to such a system, as reflected in every reputable opinion poll—made a calculated political move to withdraw the single-payer option from the bargaining table. In its stead, he argued in favor of a so-called “public option,” where a government plan would be set up to “compete” with private insurers—and would undoubtedly drive many of those insurers out of business. In an effort to assuage people’s fear that he was seeking to transform the world’s finest healthcare system into a government-run reflection of his own socialist ideals, Obama said this on June 15:

“What are not legitimate concerns are those being put forward claiming a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system.… So, when you hear the nay-sayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this—they are not telling the truth.”

But in light of his earlier quotes, this was less than candid. Obama’s pre-opinion poll position on the matter of single-payer healthcare was clear and unwavering. His more recent departure from that position is perfectly consistent with the tactics advocated by his political guru, the late Saul Alinsky, who counseled revolutionaries to conceal their real motives; to say and do whatever is necessary to allay the fears and suspicions of the middle class; and to pursue incremental change where overnight transformation is not possible—knowing they can always agitate for additional change at some point in the future.

Notwithstanding his concession to political practicality, it is clear that the ultimate objective of President Obama’s self-identified quest to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” is to move the nation as far as possible, albeit incrementally, toward a single-payer system. How did Obama come to embrace the single-payer ideal as the best of all possible options? Thanks to some extraordinary research by Trevor Loudon and Brenda J. Elliott, among others, we know the answer.

The primary figure who delivered Obama to the single-payer camp was Quentin Young, an 86-year-old retired physician who was a longtime friend and neighbor of Obama in Chicago. Young joined the Young Communist League as a teenager in the late 1930s. From the mid-1940s through the mid-1970s, he was closely associated with the Communist Party. In October 1968 he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was probing the extent of his knowledge about the riots that had erupted at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago two months earlier. The Committee accused Young of belonging to the Bethune Club, an organization for communist doctors; the group was named after Norman Bethune, a communist physician who devoted his services to the totalitarian regime of Mao Zedong.

Dr. Young was active in the radical movements of the Sixties and Seventies and led a small delegation to Communist North Vietnam in 1972. In the late 1970s, Young became associated with a Marxist organization known as the New American Movement, which was initially convened by Michael Lerner, an America-hating radical who counseled young people to explore the use of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs as portals to a greater comprehension of socialist principles.

In 1980 Young founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, a single-payer lobby group whose Board of Directors he chairs to this day. In 1982 Young helped establish the Democratic Socialists of America, which, as the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International, asserts that “many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed.” In 1987 Young co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a single-payer advocacy organization where he currently serves as national coordinator. In PNHP’s view, government-run healthcare “should be financed by truly progressive taxation.”

In 1995 Young attended the now-famous meeting at the Hyde Park home of former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, where Barack Obama was first introduced to influential locals as the hand-picked successor to Alice Palmer, a pro-Soviet radical who planned to vacate her Illinois State Senate seat in pursuit of a higher elected office. Young quickly became a friend and political ally of Obama, teaching the latter about the merits of single-payer healthcare. In a 2009 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Young reminisced about the germination of his ideological kinship with the young Obama:

“Barack Obama, in those early days [as a state senator]—influenced, I hope, by me and others—categorically said single payer was the best way, and he would inaugurate it if he could get the support, meaning [Democratic] majorities in both houses, which he’s got, and the presidency, which he’s got. And he said that on more than one occasion….”

Another noteworthy influence on Obama’s views vis à vis healthcare has been Dr. Peter Orris, who co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program with Quentin Young. The son of a Communist Party member, Orris in the 1960s was a leader of Harvard University’s campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, the New Leftist organization that aspired to overthrow America’s democratic institutions and remake the nation’s government in a Marxist image. He later joined the Communist Party (CP) for more than two decades, before ultimately shifting his allegiance to the CP splinter group, Committees of Correspondence, where he remains a prominent figure to this day.

Other leading PNHP activists (and thus, key shapers of President Obama’s healthcare agendas) include the following:

  • Joanne Landy, a high-ranking member of the Democratic Socialists of America
  • Mark Almberg, a prominent member of the Illinois Communist Party since the 1970s
  • Oliver Fein (PNHP President) and Steffi Woolhandler (PNHP Secretary), both of whom have spoken in favor of a single-payer healthcare system at the annual Socialist Scholars Conferences in New York City

The Communist influences on President Obama’s healthcare objectives do not end with the foregoing list of PNHP leaders. In 2004, PNHP collaborated with a number of likeminded, far-left organizations to form a wider coalition, Healthcare-NOW!, which likewise promotes single-payer reform (and, notably, enjoys the strong support of the Socialist Party USA). Obama’s friend and mentor, Quentin Young, is a central figure in Healthcare-NOW!, serving as the network’s national coordinator and co-chair. Other prominent members of Healthcare-NOW!’s Board of Directors—who, like their counterparts at PNHP, exert a major influence on President Obama—include:

Barack Obama did not conceive of socialized medicine on his own. His acceptance of such a system was cultivated and nurtured by the same types of Marxist revolutionaries with whom he has surrounded himself throughout his entire adult life – and who are now shaping the major policy agendas of his administration.