Open Letter to the United States Senate

Dear Colleague:

We invite you to add your signature to the Open Letter from physicians and medical students.  It urges senators to defeat the bill now before them, and immediately start over on health reform.

While the Open Letter decries the current bill’s capitulation to private insurers, it does not advocate a specific alternative.  At this moment it’s essential to combine the voices of colleagues who believe that only a single payer reform will suffice and those who believe that a robust public option is acceptable, or even preferable.

Because of the impending Senate vote, time is of the essence. Add your signature, and circulate this letter to as many additional colleagues as possible.


To the Members of the U.S. Senate:

It is with great sadness that we urge you to vote against the health care reform legislation now before you.  As physicians, we are acutely aware of the unnecessary suffering that our nation’s broken healthcare financing system inflicts on our patients. We make no common cause with the Republicans’ obstructionist tactics or alarmist rhetoric. However, we have reluctantly concluded that the Senate bill is now so compromised that its passage would bring more harm than good.

We are fully cognizant of the many salutary provisions included in the legislation, notably an expansion of Medicaid coverage, increased funds for community clinics and regulations to curtail some of private insurers’ most egregious practices.  Yet these are outweighed by its central provisions – particularly the individual mandate - that would reinforce insurers’ stranglehold on care.  Those who dislike their current employer-sponsored coverage would be forced to keep it.  Those without insurance would be forced to pay private insurers’ inflated premiums, often for coverage so skimpy that serious illness could bankrupt them.  And the more than $400 billion in new public funds for premium subsidies would all go to insurance firms, buttressing their financial and political power, and rendering future reform all the more difficult.

Moreover, this capitulation to insurers – along with concessions to the pharmaceutical industry - fatally undermines the economic viability of reform.  Despite leaving at least 24 million uninsured and draining substantial funds from Medicare, the Senate bill would actually raise overall health spending.  The much ballyhooed goal of budget neutrality over the next 10 years is to be achieved through an accounting trick - front-loading the new revenues while delaying most new coverage until 2014.  As homeowners seduced into balloon mortgages have learned, pushing costs off to the future is neither prudent nor sustainable.

We ask that you defeat the bill currently under debate, and immediately move to consider alternatives which prioritize the advancement of our nation’s health over the enhancement of private interests.

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