Friday, January 22, 2016

qotd: PNHP response to national debate on ‘Medicare for All’

Physicians for a National Health Program

January 22, 2016

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

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 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
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
(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 supporting Medicare for
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 (//
has been advocating for single-payer national health insurance for three
decades. It neither supports nor opposes any candidates for public office./'medicare-for-all'


Comment by Don McCanne

The concept of a single payer national health program - Medicare for all
- has become part of the political debate leading up to the presidential
primaries. To no surprise, the rhetoric has been driven by politics
which characteristically reduces important concepts to sometimes
meaningless or deceptive sound bites. The media, including liberal
pundits who should know better, have made the debate a battle of words
rather than ideas. We at PNHP believe that facts should guide the
national debate, and thus this release.

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