Doctors Group Welcomes National Debate on ‘Medicare for All’

Doctors group welcomes national debate on ‘Medicare for All’

Nonpartisan physicians group calls single-payer reform ‘the only effective remedy’ for nation’s continuing health care woes and urges focus on facts, not rhetoric

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 22, 2016
Contact: Mark Almberg, PNHP communications director, (312) 782-6006, mark@pnhp.org

Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 20,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance, released the following statement today by its president, Dr. Robert Zarr, a Washington, D.C., pediatrician.

The national debate on single-payer health reform, or "Medicare for All," that has emerged in the course of the presidential primaries is a welcome development. But unfortunately a number of misrepresentations about single-payer national health insurance – and the prospects for its attainment – have crept into the dialogue and are potentially misleading the public.

Most of these misrepresentations, or myths, have been decisively refuted by peer-reviewed research. They include the following:

Myth: A single-payer system would impose an unacceptable financial burden on U.S. households. Reality: Single payer is the only health reform that pays for itself. By replacing hundreds of insurers and thousands of different private health plans, each with their own marketing, enrollment, billing, utilization review, actuary and other departments, with a single, streamlined, tax-financed nonprofit program, more than $400 billion in health spending would be freed up to guarantee coverage to all of the 30 million people who are currently uninsured and to upgrade the coverage of everyone else, including the tens of millions who are underinsured. Co-pays and deductibles, which have been rapidly rising under the Affordable Care Act, would be eliminated. Further, the single-payer system’s bargaining clout would rein in rising costs for drugs and medical supplies. Lump-sum budgets for hospitals and capital planning would control costs even more.

A recent study shows 95 percent of U.S. households would come out financially ahead under an improved version of Medicare for all. The graduated, progressively structured tax burden would be based on ability to pay, and the heavy cost to average U.S. households of private insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and many currently uncovered services would be eliminated. Patients could go to the doctor or hospital of their choice, and would no longer be restricted to proprietary networks. Multiple studies over a period of several decades, including by the General Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office, show that a single-payer system would provide universal coverage at a much lower cost, per capita, than we are spending now. International experience confirms it. Even our traditional Medicare program, which falls short of a true single-payer system, has much lower overhead than private insurance, and shows that publicly financed programs can deliver affordable, reliable care.

A single-payer system would also greatly diminish the administrative burden on our nation’s physicians and hospitals, freeing up physicians, in particular, to concentrate on doing what they know best: caring for patients.

Covering everyone for all medically necessary care is affordable; keeping the current private-insurance-based system intact is not.

Myth: The U.S. has a privately financed health care system. Reality: About 64 percent of U.S. health spending is currently financed by taxpayers. (Estimates that are lower than this exclude two large sources of taxpayer-funded care: health insurance for government employees and tax subsidies to employers and individuals for purchasing private health plans.) On a per capita basis, the amount of government-funded health care in the U.S. exceeds the health spending of nations with universal health systems, e.g. Canada. We are paying for a national health program, but not getting it.

Myth: A single-payer system would overturn the gains won under the Affordable Care Act and provide inferior coverage to what people have today. Reality: A single-payer system would go far beyond the modest improvements that the ACA made around the edges of our current private-insurance-based system and ensure truly universal care, affordability and health security. For example, H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, would guarantee coverage for all necessary medical care, including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care and correction, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, podiatric care, and long-term care. It would eliminate financial barriers to care like co-pays and deductibles and eliminate restrictive networks. It would end the steady erosion of job-based coverage under our current arrangements and disconnect insurance coverage from employment. H.R. 676 currently has 61 sponsors.

Myth: The American people don’t support single payer. Reality: Surveys have repeatedly shown that an improved Medicare for All is the remedy preferred by about two-thirds of the population. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey yielded similar results, showing 58 percent of Americans support Medicare for All. A solid majority of the medical profession favors such an approach, as well, as do more than 600 labor organizations, and many civic and faith-based groups.

Myth: The goal of establishing a single-payer system in the U.S. is unrealistic, or “politically infeasible.” Reality: It’s true that single-payer health reform faces formidable opposition, especially from the private insurance industry, Big Pharma, and other for-profit interests in health care, along with their allies in government. This prompts some people to conclude that single payer is out of reach and therefore not worth fighting for. While such moneyed opposition should not be underestimated, there is no reason why a well-informed and organized public, including the medical profession, cannot prevail over these vested interests. We should not sell the American people short. At earlier points in U.S. history, the abolition of slavery and the attainment of women’s suffrage were considered unrealistic, and yet the movements to achieve these goals were ultimately victorious and we now wonder how those injustices were allowed to stand for so long.

What is truly “unrealistic” is believing that we can provide universal and affordable health care, and control costs, in a system dominated by private insurers and Big Pharma.

We call upon our nation’s lawmakers and the political leaders of all political parties to heed public opinion and to do the right thing by acting swiftly to bring about the only equitable, financially responsible and humane cure for our health care ills: single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for all.

Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) has been advocating for single-payer national health insurance for three decades. It neither supports nor opposes any candidates for public office.

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Our Nation Needs This Balm as Single-Payer Action Surges Forward

Published on Monday, November 02, 2015 by Common Dreams

Rally for healthcare justice at Chicago's "Bean." (Photo: Donna Smith)

Rally for healthcare justice at Chicago's "Bean." (Photo: Donna Smith)

Over the past few days, more than 700 people from all over the country came together for the annual single-payer strategy conference.  This year, we were in Chicago, my hometown,  Of course we shared ideas, successes, concerns, and knowledge about the kind of healthcare reform that might truly give us the best healthcare system in the world through an improved Medicare for all for life model.

The convening groups represented Healthcare-NOW, the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care, One Payer States, and Physicians for a National Health Program.

Leaders from this movement get precious little time to gather face-to-face during the year.  There were scores of nurses from all over the country -- New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and beyond.  There were doctors from all over the place.  And there were those of us who are patients who have been injured (or might be injured) by our aggressively greedy healthcare system.  Labor leaders brought the hopes of their rank and file membership that someday we will actually allow contract bargaining to surround much more than healthcare benefits and costs that have squeezed out other issues like wages, vacation and other leave benefits and so on.

The conference opened with a joint protest at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield building in Chicago.  One of the great moments for me was seeing the medical students passionately calling for changes to their chosen profession.  It gave me hope for the future and the potential for real change.

But the highlight of the conference for me came in something much less quantifiable but much more powerful -- the balm of knowing that this wonderful nation is filled with compassionate, decent people who believe in the promise of our Declaration of Independence in which we read that all men are endowed by their creator of certain unalienable rights, and that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  There can be none of those dearly held rights for Americans when our healthcare system snuffs out any chance for equality and the opportunity to live life to its fullest extent.

We are not enemies of our neighbors, our business owners or our fellow Americans who may hold very different political positions.  When it comes to our unalienable rights, we are one.

On Sunday morning when we convened for the final session, John Lozier of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council called us together.  John reminded us that after Halloween comes the Day of the Dead, and he asked that we silence ourselves -- not an easy task for this many opinionated, wonderful social justice warriors -- and the room grew quiet.  John asked us to remember all of those who have lost the struggle to stay alive in the midst of a cloud of inhumanity that has emboldened those who profit from the pain of others.  I cannot say that it was silent.  Although there was an absence of noise, the energy of compassion swelled in the air.

In those few moments of collective remembrance, the room was filled with a palpable sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves that drives us onward to the day when our healthcare system unites us around healing and health rather than profits and wealth.  I tried to turn my thoughts away to gather myself for the morning's work, but the wonder, comfort and compassion washed over me in waves.  I tried not to weep.  I fought back my tears.  And all at once, I knew why it is not only possible but probable that we will secure the rights we all need to be as free and healthy as our neighbors.  I felt what it might be like to rest in that security and compassion.  And let me say, it was one of my life's "ah ha" moments.  Imagine a society that healed instead of arming itself for the next gun assault our streets.

So, going forward to do the work we envisioned is so much more important than our focus on the healthcare system or other progressive struggles.  It is about who we are as human beings and how we make sure that we can live up to the elegance of the words written in the Declaration and so oft cited by those who would tear us apart for personal gain.  All men, all women, all children are created equal.

Finally, just moments before we needed to part, a dear friend and brilliant woman professor, Lindy Hern, handed me a gift she brought me from her home state of Hawaii.  It is a beautiful little jar of ginger-guava lip balm.  Indeed.  Another balm.  I march on.  We march on.  We will achieve our goal, and soon we will gather in joyous celebration that the years of struggle when we worried about the path forward will wash away, and we will leave our children the promise we hold dear -- a nation that lives up to its earliest bargaining agreement that brought us together almost 240 years ago to believe we are indeed not only deserving of equal rights but endowed with those rights.

Won't you be a part of creating this kind of nation and this kind of world?  Join us.  A better society is coming.  Everybody in, nobody out.  Our battle cry sounds an awful lot like that long ago declaration, and it calls us to action.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donna Smith is the Executive Director of Health Care for All Colorado and the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation. 

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Medicare Birthday Celebration Photos

Thanks to all who helped make this event such a great success! Photos courtesy of John G. Booker, Jr., Dr. Mike Huntington, and Amy Roy

Thank you also to Norbert DuBois for the photos below.

July Events - Many Opportunities to Participate and Volunteer!

Below is a list of our big events coming up in July. Please let us know if you are interested in volunteering to help with any of these. You are also welcome to march with us in the 4th of July Parade and help with tabling at the Saturday Corvallis Farmer's Market. Volunteers are always needed, welcomed, and appreciated!

For the parade come to 8th Street between Jefferson and Monroe at 9:30 to line up wearing your red shirt if you have one. We will have signs for you to carry promoting Health Care for ALL, The parade begins at 10 and proceeds down Monroe Street and ends at the Riverfront.

What: Celebrate the 50th birthday of Medicare, “As American as Apple Pie!”
Hosts: Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates (mvhca.org)

When: Saturday, July 18, 11:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Riverfront Park in Corvallis, near the Saturday Farmers’ Market.

Why: Medicare, which faced widespread opposition in 1965 and was roundly opposed as “socialized medicine,” today allows 48 million Americans affordable access to health care.

Enjoy music, cupcakes, and short inspirational testimonies - more –

 

What: “Sick Around the World” documentary by T.R. Reid

When: Thursday, July 16, 7:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Darkside Cinema, Corvallis $7

Why: Take another look at why and how most develop countries guarantee access to health care for their people. Discussion to be led by three local physicians.

 

What: T.R. Reid comes to Oregon, speaks in the Mid-Valley
U.S. Health Care, What to Do About It”

When: Saturday, July 25, 7:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.,

Where: LBCC, Takena Hall, Russell Tripp Theater. Free admission

Why: “Our Costly and Troubled Sick Care System


What: T.R. Reid comes to Oregon, speaks in Salem

When: Saturday, July 25, noon to 1:15 p.m.

Where: Salem Hospital Building D, Creekside Room Free admission, but please register.

Why: “Obamacare: Is It the Answer?”



Share This Video Explaining Medicare for All

Robert Reich says, "You may have heard that Medicare is running out of money and needs to be pared back. Wrong. Medicare isn't the problem. In fact, Medicare is more efficient than private health insurance. It's the solution.

Here is the piece Robert Reich wrote in the Huffington Post to introduce his video:

Again and again the upcoming election you'll hear conservatives claim that Medicare -- the health insurance program for America's seniors -- is running out of money and must be pared back.

Baloney. Medicare isn't the problem. In fact, Medicare is more efficient than private health insurance.The real problem is that the costs of health care are expected to rise steeply.

Medicare could be the solution -- the logical next step after the Affordable Care Act toward a single-payer system.

Please see the accompanying video -- #11 in our series on ideas to make the economy work for the many rather than for the few. And please share.

Some background: Medicare faces financial problems in future years because of two underlying trends that will affect all health care in coming years, regardless of what happens to Medicare:

The first is that healthcare costs are rising overall -- not as fast as they were rising before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, but still rising too quickly.

The second is that the giant post­war baby boom is heading toward retirement and older age. Which means more elderly people will need more health care, adding to the rising costs.

So how should we deal with these two costly trends? By making Medicare available to all Americans, not just the elderly.

Remember, Medicare is more efficient than private health insurers ­­ whose administrative costs and advertising and marketing expenses are eating up billions of dollars each year.

If more Americans were allowed to join Medicare, it could become more efficient by using its growing bargaining power to get lower drug prices, lower hospital bills, and healthier people.

Allowing all Americans to join Medicare is the best way to control future healthcare costs while also meeting the needs of the baby boomer and other Americans.

Everyone should be able to sign up for Medicare on the healthcare exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.This would begin to move America away from its reliance on expensive private health insurance, and toward Medicare for all - a single­ payer system.

Medicare isn't a problem. It's part of the solution.

ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

You can help MVHCA as we work for single payer health care by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Health care costs keep Oregon ex-pats in Canada

MVHCA, PNHP, and Mad As Hell Doctor member Mike Huntington wrote a great letter to the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

March 24, 2015 9:00 am

I spoke with my cousin Debbie at a recent family gathering. She and her husband grew up in the United States and then, long ago, moved to Canada for work. Both have dual citizenship. They love and miss Oregon. For years they have hoped to return permanently to Coos County.

But they don’t dare.

So long as they stay in Canada they have affordable tax-based healthcare insurance, Canadian Medicare, giving them access to good care that is free of US-style financial torment.

But if they come home to Oregon they have only unaffordable and troublesome options. They would have to pay $1,000 to $2,000 a month for a high deductible policy that provides no guaranteed access to care or protection from financial ruin.

They know that healthcare fees are the greatest cause of financial indebtedness in the United States and most families facing medical bankruptcy did indeed have insurance at the time they became ill or injured.

Debbie clings to hope. She knows that Oregon has a vibrant grassroots movement for legislation that will guarantee access to healthcare for all Oregonians without financial ruin or needless delay.

My cousin has a homesickness we can cure. She can return to Oregon without fear if we create a better and less expensive healthcare system that is based on need instead of the market.

Please tell your legislators it’s time to get well beyond the mixed benefits of Obamacare and Oregon’s Coordinated Care Organizations — with Health Care for All Oregon, mvhca.org.

Michael Huntington MD

Corvallis

Help MVHCA as we work for Improved Medicare for All by donating, hosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. Thank you.

 

PNHP Comments about the Wall Street Journal Article on Vermont's Single Payer Effort

The Wall Street Journal
December 22, 2014
Vermont’s Single Payer Washout

Last week, in a reversal that deserves more attention, Democratic Governor
Peter Shumlin announced that Vermont would no longer create America’s first
statewide single-payer health system.
Single payer is the polite term for socialized medicine and the ultimategoal of the political left.
At least the Governor deserves credit for admitting failure. His ideological comrades are rarely dissuaded by the prospect of economic damage, as ObamaCare proves. But Mr. Shumlin has succeeded in making Vermont a national model: By admitting that single payer will make health care both more expensive and less efficient, he has shown other states what not to do.

Vermont
H.202
Bill as Passed by the House and Senate, 2011

“An act relating to a single-payer and unified health system”
changed to
“An act relating to a universal and unified health system”

(H.202 is a 213 page bill. The first 135 pages were deleted and the
remaining pages are a rewrite of the entire bill.)

Sec.2(a)(6):

The director, in collaboration with the agency of human services, shall
obtain waivers, exemptions, agreements, legislation, or a combination
thereof to ensure that, to the extent possible under federal law, all
federal payments provided within the state for health services are paid
directly to Green Mountain Care. Green Mountain Care shall assume
responsibility for the benefits and services previously paid for by the
federal programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, and, after implementation,
the Vermont health benefit exchange.

***

Comment by Don McCanne of PNHP

As was fully expected, the conservative and libertarian pundits are
inundating the Internet and other media vehicles with celebratory
commentaries on the theme that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s withdrawal of
his single payer proposal is proof that single payer is more expensive and
less efficient than other health care financing systems. The Wall Street
Journal editorial excerpt above is selected as a leading example of these
right-wing responses. The problem with these comments is that H.202, the
Vermont reform legislation, IS NOT A SINGLE PAYER PROPOSAL.

Even many single payer supporters have it wrong. They claim that Gov.
Shumlin gave up for political reasons, and, if he had persevered, he would
have been successful in establishing the first state-level single payer
system in the U.S. Again, the problem is that H.202, the Vermont reform
legislation, IS NOT A SINGLE PAYER PROPOSAL.

Posted above is a link to H.202. During the legislative process, the bill
was renamed, deleting “single-payer” from its title. If you check the
document at the link, you will see that the original bill was red-lined
out, and the bill was entirely rewritten. All references to “single-payer”
were removed.

The crucial phrase in the except above regarding waivers and agreements is
“to the extent possible under federal law.” It was known at the time the
revisions were being made that Sec 1332 ACA waivers, Sec 1115 Medicaid
waivers, the narrowly defined Medicare demonstration waivers, and the ERISA
limitations on employer-sponsored plans were so limited that it would be
impossible to establish a bona fide single payer system through unilateral
state action alone, nor through a cooperative effort with the Obama
administration. Comprehensive federal legislation would have been required,
and that clearly was not forthcoming from this or the next Congress.
Legislating a wish list does not equate with clearing all of the hurdles
that only Congress can effectuate.

The reason that this message is being reemphasized again today is that
there has not been a loud enough voice in unison emphatically rejecting the
claim that Vermont’s experience is proof that single payer cannot work.
Single payer never had a chance, considering the inertia in Congress. This
was not a single payer failure. Do not remain silent when that claim is
made. Single payer has been proven to work well in many other nations.

Two Memes that Undercut Medicare-for-All: Managed Care and Competition

From our friends at PNHP-

By Don McCanne, MD

The dream of expanding Medicare to cover all of us has failed to materialize in a large part because of the nation’s obsession with marketplace concepts of health care financing. On the supply side, health care providers are responding to financial incentives that maximize their revenue. On the demand side, patient-consumers are responding to financial incentives that minimize their out-of-pocket spending. In both instances, health care access is compromised - in managed care by erecting structural barriers to care (“managing” the care), and in competition by erecting financial barriers to care (buying competitively-priced plans with lower premiums that have higher deductibles and other cost sharing).

Where did this obsession come from? Gilens and Page have shown that the very wealthy and large business interests have control over major legislation. These interests benefit from marketplace approaches to health care through investments in for-profit insurance companies and in health care delivery organizations, including for-profit hospitals. In contrast, their tax burden in publicly-financed health programs is greater when taxes are progressive. Also many other important government programs are financed through progressive taxes, so the moneyed interests benefit by privatizing government functions to the maximum extent possible.

These interests, along with ideologues, have made a meme of the concept that private markets are always more efficient than massive government bureaucracies, when the evidence is almost always to the contrary. Unfortunately, much of the media have accepted this meme as a given. Since everyone “knows,” based on a lifetime of exposure to these memes, that the private sector can always do it better, they are quite willing to support private solutions to problems such as the financing of health care.

Whenever proposals such as expanding Medicare come up, the insurance industry pulls the puppet strings in Congress, and the public is reminded how well UnitedHealth and the other for-profit insurers are doing in creating private products that have lower out-of-pocket costs than Medicare (not mentioning that they are doing that with one-third of the overpayments they receive while keeping the other two thirds for profits and to pay for the excessive administrative services that they are selling us - a bad deal for taxpayers).

So those who support the intrusive managed care organizations and who support shifting more costs directly to patients under the false banner of marketplace competition (see Kenneth Arrow) have been effective in suppressing any serious consideration of improving Medicare and expanding it to cover everyone. As long as the public continues to buy their meme, there is little likelihood of change.

We need to continue to inform the public on the legitimate findings of health policy science (national health programs that include everyone while providing higher quality at a lower cost), but that is a daunting task considering how difficult it is to communicate complex policies to a population blunted by unfounded memes.

Margaret Flowers: The ACA is the Wrong Direction; Time for Medicare for All

Monday, October 21, 2013

In what is perhaps the greatest corporate scam ever, not only did the health insurance corporations write the federal health law, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to enhance their profits, but now they also have the government and non-profit groups doing the work of marketing their shoddy products.

The United States is already spending more per person each year on health care than any other industrialized nation. We are spending enough to provide lifelong high-quality comprehensive care to every person living in the US. If we move immediately to a publicly-funded national Medicare for all, there would be no need for insurance exchanges and the massive increase in bureaucracy that goes with them. Every person would be in the health system.

Read more.