Single-payer health program would cover all 42 million uninsured, upgrade everyone’s benefits and save $400 billion annually on bureaucracy, physicians say

 

A national physicians group today hailed the reintroduction of a federal bill that would upgrade the Medicare program and swiftly expand it to cover the entire population.

The “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” H.R. 676, introduced last night by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., with 44 other House members, would replace today’s welter of private health insurance companies with a single, streamlined public agency that would pay all medical claims, much like Medicare works for seniors today.

Proponents say a Medicare-for-all system, also known as a single-payer system, would vastly simplify how the nation pays for care, improve patient health, restore free choice of physician, eliminate copays and deductibles, and yield substantial savings for individuals, families and the national economy.

“The global evidence is very clear: single-payer financing systems are the most equitable and cost-effective way to assure that everyone, without exception, gets high-quality care,” said Dr. Robert Zarr, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit research and educational group of 19,000 doctors nationwide.

“Medicare is a good model to build on, and what better way to observe Medicare’s 50th anniversary year than to improve and extend the program and its benefits to people of all ages?”

Zarr, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician, continued: “An expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program would assure truly universal coverage, cover all necessary services, and knock down the growing financial barriers to care – high premiums, co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance – that our nation’s patients and their families are increasingly running up against, often with calamitous results.

“Such a plan would save over $400 billion a year currently wasted on private-insurance-related bureaucracy, paperwork and marketing. That’s enough money to provide first-dollar coverage for everyone in the country – without increasing U.S. health spending by a single penny.

“Such a program would also have the financial clout to negotiate with drug and medical equipment suppliers for lower prices, and would further save money through lump-sum budgeting for hospitals.

“In short,” Zarr said, “the enactment of Rep. Conyers’ bill would take us much further down the road to a humane, just and sustainable health care system than the 2010 health law, which, despite its modest benefits, will not be able to control costs and will still leave 31 million people uninsured in 2024, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Millions more will be inadequately insured, with skimpy coverage.”

Zarr pointed out that the Census Bureau reports there were 5.9 million uninsured children in 2013.

“Surveys have repeatedly shown that about two-thirds of the public supports a Medicare-for-all approach,” he said, “and recent surveys show physician support is also strong and growing. Hundreds of labor, civic and faith-based organizations have endorsed this model of deep-going reform.

“As a doctor who sees the children of hard-pressed parents every day, I can tell you that the need for fundamental health care reform has never been greater,” he said. “It’s time to stop putting the interests of private insurance companies and Big Pharma over patient needs. It’s time to adopt a single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all program in the United States.”

A summary of the basic provisions of H.R. 676 is available here.

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Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is a nonprofit research and educational organization of 19,000 physicians who support single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for all.

Bullet Points for Legislators

  • Single Payer saves money.  For the past 20 years, states have commissioned studies on different types of health care systems.   In EVERY case, single payer was shown to be the only way to cover everyone and the only system that saved money and controlled costs.

  • Publicly financed does not mean government run health care.  YOU have publicly finance health coverage, but the government does not make decisions regarding your health care.

  • Cost conscious patients often don't get the care they need.   Most decisions are made by the doctor in concert with the patient, but the patient relies on the doctor's knowledge to make a decision.  Expensive tests and treatments cannot be ordered by the patient, only the doctor.

  • Lifestyle choices are not what is fueling high costs in health care.   The United States ranks low in general health indicators, but high in good health habits.  We smoke less, drink less and consume less animal fat that many other countries with better health indicators and much lower health care costs.

  • Businesses can accurately determine their health care costs and are not subject to unanticipated large premium increases.

  • It will reduce labor costs due to a more efficient way of financing health care, eliminating much wasteful administration.

  • Workers' Compensation costs will be reduced, likely by half, due to the fact that everyone has health coverage and there is no need for the medical portion.

  • It reduces the need for part time employees and provides easier recruiting.  There are no pre-existing conditions or Cobra issues.

  • Eliminates the oversight of health benefits and bargaining health coverage with employees.

  • It creates healthier personnel and more stable employees, reduces absenteeism and eliminates employer health coverage complaints.

  • It reduces employee health related debt and personal bankruptcies.

  • It frees up family income that can be spent on other goods and services, thus stimulating the economy.

Tips for Writing Letters to Editor

Follow guidelines for your local paper (word count, submission instructions, etc.)

Frame your letter in relation to a recent news item Use state specific data whenever possible (let us know if you need help finding some!)

Address counter arguments

Be aware of your audience and emphasize how Medicare for All is good for ALL residents of the state

Criticize other positions, not people Include your credentials (especially if you work in the healthcare field)

Avoid jargon and abbreviations

Don’t overload on statistics and minor details

Cover only one or two points in a single letter

Avoid rambling and vagueness

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