News

Number of uninsured skyrockets 4.3 million to record 50.7 million in 2009

Big leap points to urgency of enacting single-payer Medicare for all: national doctors' group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 16, 2010
 
Contact:
Quentin Young, M.D.
Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D.
Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006, mark@pnhp.org
Local physicians in almost all 50 states available for comment (See historical table of uninsured by state below).

Official estimates by the Census Bureau showing a dramatic spike of 4.3 million in the number of Americans without health insurance in 2009 - to a record 50.7 million - underscore the urgency of going beyond the Obama administration's new health law and swiftly implementing a single-payer, improved Medicare-for-all program, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, a 17,000-member physician group.

The Census Bureau reported that 16.7 percent of the population lacked health insurance coverage in 2009, up from 15.4 percent in 2008, when 46.3 million were uninsured.

Lack of health insurance is known to have deadly consequences. Last year researchers at Harvard Medical School showed that 45,000 deaths annually can be linked to lack of coverage.

"Tragically, we know that the new figures of uninsured mean a preventable annual death toll of about 51,000 people - that's about one death every 11 minutes," said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of PNHP. Young is a Chicago-based retired physician whose private medical practice once counted President Obama among its patients.

Young said that even if the administration's new health law works as planned, the Congressional Budget Office has projected about 50 million people will be uninsured for the next three years and about 23 million people will remain uninsured in 2019.

"Today's report suggests those projections are likely too low," he said.

The jump of 4.3 million uninsured is the largest one-year increase on record and would have been much higher - over 10 million - had there not been a huge expansion of public coverage, primarily Medicaid, to an additional 5.8 million people.

The rise in the number of uninsured was almost entirely due to a sharp decline in the number of people with employer-based coverage by 6.6 million. In 2009, 55.8 percent of the population had such coverage, having declined for the ninth consecutive year from 64.2 percent in 2000.

The record-breaking number of uninsured - exceeding 50 million for the first time since the Census Bureau started keeping records - includes 10 million children.

The biggest jumps in the percentage of uninsured were in Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina and Florida. In terms of absolute numbers, the biggest increases were in California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Alabama, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, 295,000 people remain uninsured despite that state's 2006 reform. (See link below for historical tables of the uninsured by state.)

"The only way to solve this problem is to insure everyone," Young said. "And the only way to insure everyone at a reasonable cost is to enact single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for all. Single payer would streamline bureaucracy, saving $400 billion a year on administrative overhead, enough to pay for all the uninsured and to upgrade everyone else's coverage."

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, a PNHP board member and chief of general internal medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, noted that the Census Bureau was once again silent on the pervasive problem of "underinsurance."

"Not having health insurance, or having poor quality insurance that doesn't protect you from financial hardship in the face of medical need, is a source of mounting stress and poor medical outcomes for people across our country," Carrasquillo said.  New research has found that about 14.1 million children and 25 million non-elderly adults were underinsured in 2007, a figure that is likely much higher today.

"The government subsidies under the new health law will not be sufficient to provide quality and affordable coverage to the vast majority of Americans," he said. "Tens of millions will remain uninsured, underinsured and without access to care. We need more fundamental reform to a single-payer national health insurance program."

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State-by-state data on the uninsured from 2006-2009 can be found here: www.pnhp.org/sites/default/files/docs/2010/Uninsured-by-state-2006-2009.pdf

Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is an organization of more than 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312) 782-6006.

Bernie Sanders on Vermont Proving that a Single-Payer System Can Work

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont held a town hall meeting on August 29th and was asked by one of his constituents from the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign what as Vermonters those who are supporting that movement can do about the amount of money that is going to flood into their state and how to stand against it and stop it. Bernie explained just how powerful the interests are that they are fighting against and how the recent Supreme Court decision to allow massive amounts of money to be poured into campaigns has made that worse. He also explained that if Vermont leads the country in trying to prove that a single payer, Medicare for all system can work, they are going to be deluged with special interest money trying to fight it. See the video.

Right-Wing "Think" Tanks and Health Policy

"You can always tell if you're succeeding by the viciousness of the opposition." — Dr. Quentin Young, PNHP National Coordinator

 

By Nicholas Skala. Updated by Chris Gray, July, 2010

As the movement for single payer expands, attacks on single payer in the media by the far right have increased. In addition to misleading articles and op-eds, several books attacking single payer by conservative pundits were published in recent years, including one endorsed by former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

The PNHP National Office has identified 20 right-wing think tanks that employ full-time health policy "scholars" to oppose national health insurance and advocate for health care privatization, deregulation and market-based reforms. These groups are funded with millions of dollars from wealthy far-right foundations such as the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the John Olin Foundation, the Adolph Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundations, which share an ultra-conservative social agenda.

The Right-Wing "Echo Chamber": Although they masquerade as legitimate research institutions, most of these policy think tanks are little more than PR firms for those who want to obscure the facts about health care in America. Many, such as the Fraser Institute, produce bogus research and purposely avoid peer review. Instead, they provide "experts" with fancy titles to write editorials and appear on TV news programs to spread misinformation. Each of these institutions is funded by the same small group of ideological foundations, and it is extremely common for these "experts" to cite each other's bogus research in their commentaries, giving the impression of wide scientific credibility for their views. Twenty of the top "think" tanks are detailed below. Members are encouraged to take the lead on behalf of PNHP in responding to misinformation spread by these and other groups.

Democrats Block California Single-Payer Bill

September 1, 2010

By Don McCanne

Speaker John Perez of the California State Assembly, on the very last day of the legislative session, pulled SB 810, the single payer bill, from the Assembly floor.

This highly unusual move of pulling a bill that had cleared all legislative hurdles except for the final Assembly floor vote was to protect Democrats from having to cast a health care reform vote in a difficult political environment three months before the next election.

Democrats feared a backlash from those who are opposed to the recently enacted federal health care legislation should they vote for the bill, and they feared offending their progressive base should they vote against the bill. Since a veto by Gov. Schwarzenegger was a given, it was decided that it would be safer to avoid the political risks by simply pulling the bill.

But did they really avoid that risk? Are the single payer advocates expendable? Don't think so.

Fortunately, Senator Mark Leno is not to be deterred. He has vowed to reintroduce the bill in the next legislative session which begins in January.

The Democrats are worried about their political base, but maybe that's not the framing we should be looking at. Perhaps the single payer advocates should be reassessing their own base instead.

Not all Democrats have been supportive of single payer, and several Republicans who are not part of the prevailing lock-step bloc do understand the benefits of the single payer model. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is proof that we can't rely on the Democrats to do the right thing. Most importantly, everyone understands the benefits of Medicare as a social insurance program (even if there is a fringe reactionary element that would emasculate it).

The Tea Party is proving that passionate voices can be heard. Maybe we can learn from them, though our message should contain more than simple platitudes. Our message needs to convey the principled substance of health care justice, and it needs to be loud, clear and highly infectious.

Why we say that single-payer is good for business as well as the rest of us

Honeywell locks out USW Local in Illinois over health care — sister Local in Canada wins contract with no problem; everyone there Is covered under Canada’s single-payer plan

On June 28, 2010, Honeywell locked out the 230 union workers at its uranium hexafluoride plant in Metropolis, an Ohio River town of 6,500 at the tip of southern Illinois 400 miles south of Chicago. A working class town nestled amidst the corn, soybean and wheat fields, Metropolis is known for its Superman statue on the court house square where most Illinois candidates, including Barack Obama, have stopped by for a photo op.

Honeywell didn’t care if the workers liked their health care plan. This corporation said it was not going to let them keep it. The members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7-669 refused to accept the company proposal to increase workers’ out of pocket health care maximum to $8,500 a year and to end retiree health coverage. The union proposed to continue working as they bargained. Honeywell said no and locked the doors.

USW 7-669’s sister local in Canada signed their current contract in July 2010, and health care coverage did not present a problem. “Bargaining was not particularly difficult this time around,” said Chris Leavitt, President of USW Local 13173 in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, home of the Cameco plant, the only other one in North America to make the uranium hexafluoride used to produce nuclear energy. Canadian USW Local 13173 is about the same size as the Metropolis local and was a part of District 50 of the United Mine Workers which affiliated with the USW.

Everyone is covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan—automatically–as a part of Canada’s Medicare, a single payer plan, explains Leavitt. Members of Local 13173 and their families pay nothing—no premium, no co-pay, no co-insurance, no deductible–for hospital care plus medication, out patient services, doctor’s visits, and other doctors’ services such as surgery. Health care is publicly funded for everyone so unions can use their bargaining power to negotiate for wages and other benefits. Read full article.

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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