Posted on May 2, 2001

Sweeping Health Care Reform Proposed by Nation's Top Physicians


Former Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine is Leading Spokesperson for Effort

Washington, D.C. - A group of nearly two-dozen nationally prominent physicians -- including Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Rodney Hood, the President of the National Medical Association which represents African-American physicians, Dr. Elinor Christiansen, the President of the American Medical Women's Association, Dr. Merlin DuVal, President Nixon's Assistant Secretary for Health, Drs. Christine Cassel and Gerald Thompson, Past Presidents of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Sindhu Srinivas, President of the American Medical Student Association, and other physician leaders -- testify before Congress today that only comprehensive reform of America's ailing health system will address the nation's health care crisis. The hearing is sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

"We've engaged in a massive and failed experiment in market-based medicine in the U.S." said Dr. Marcia Angell. "Rhetoric about the benefits of competition and profit-driven health care can no longer hide the reality: Our health system is in shambles. Despite spending twice as much on average on health care per person as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and every other developed country, over 42 million Americans have no health care insurance at all, and tens of millions more are not covered for all their medical needs. The recession we all fear could easily push the number of uninsured to 60 million."

Dr. Angell is the spokesperson for a collaboration by the nation's top physicians who believe that a national health program is needed to improve the quality of the U.S. health system - recently ranked 37th by the World Health Organization. The physicians' consensus proposal begins "Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity and there is an obligation for society to ensure that every person be able to realize this right,"(Cardinal Joseph Bernardin). "

More than 60 years ago, the National Medical Association was the only physician organization that supported single-payer, national health insurance" said Dr. Rodney Hood, President of the NMA. "In a diverse country such as ours, full of resources and ingenuity to unravel the mysteries of the human genome, there is no acceptable reason for Americans of any race, ethnicity or economic background to be barred from accessing the health care services they need. It is clear that Americans want health coverage that is affordable, accountable, and equitable."

The group of eminent physicians will testify that national health insurance - essentially, Medicare for all -- is the only way to control skyrocketing health costs while restoring choice of physician and the doctor-patient relationship. "We have the cruel paradox of rationing health care in the midst of plenty," said Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and a Past President of the American Public Health Association. "With national health insurance we could reclaim the 25% of all health spending we currently squander on paperwork and use it to cover the uninsured."

Tax credits, vouchers and medical savings accounts are failed strategies for reform, according to the Physicians' Working Group. They would mostly benefit healthy and well-off Americans. "We don't need any more piecemeal strategies that are, in effect, tactics by the drug and insurance industries to delay real reform," said Dr. Young. "We need a system in which we have 'everybody in, nobody out."