Posted on August 13, 2003

Doctors Call for National Health Insurance


EMBARGOED UNTIL: August 12, 2003, 3 p.m. Central
Contacts: Steffie Woolhandler MD 518-794-8109
Quentin Young MD 312-782-6006

Doctors Call for National Health Insurance Journal of the American Medical Association Publishes Physicians Proposal for National Health Insurance

Signed by 7,782 Physicians

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUGUST 11, 2003 — In an unprecedented show of physician support for National Health Insurance (NHI), 7,782 U.S. physicians propose single payer NHI in an article in the August 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The “Physicians’ Proposal for National Health Insurance” was drafted by a blue ribbon panel of leading physicians. The signers include 2 former U.S. Surgeons General, the former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of medicine,hundreds of medical school professors and deans, and thousands of practicing doctors throughout the nation. The Proposal will be presented in D.C. at The National Press Club on August 12 at 10am in the Murrow room.

“This is an historic moment. Today, thousands of physicians are taking a stand on the side of patients and repudiating the powerful insurance and drug lobbies that block wholesome reform,” said Dr. Quentin Young, a leading Chicago physician who chaired the Department of Medicine at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital and convened the group of prominent physicians that drafted the proposal.”

The doctors’ article also critiques the health reform plans that have been offered by President Bush and the major Democratic presidential contenders. “Proposals that would retain the role of private insurers - such as calls for tax-credits, Medicaid/CHIP expansions, and pushing more seniors into private HMO’s - are prescriptions for failure. By perpetuating administrative waste, such proposals make universal coverage unaffordable,” said Dr. Young.

The physicians call for national health insurance that would cover every American for all necessary medical care - in essence an expanded and improved version of traditional Medicare.

* Patients could choose to go to any doctor and hospital. Most hospitals and clinics would remain privately owned and operated, receiving a budget from the NHI to cover all operating costs. Physicians could continue to practice on a fee-for-service basis, or receive salaries from group practices, hospitals or clinics.

* The program would be paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes that would be fully offset by reductions in premiums and out-of-pocket spending.

* The proposed single payer NHI would save at least $200 billion annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry and reducing spending for marketing and other satellite services.

* Administrative savings would fully offset the costs of covering the uninsured as well as giving full prescription drug coverage to all Americans.

“In the current economic climate, we can no longer afford to waste the vast resources we do on the administrative costs, executive salaries, and profiteering of the private insurance system”, states Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. “We get too little for our money. It’s time to put those resources into real health care for everyone.”

The physicians’ call for NHI comes as rising health costs and premiums, and the increasing number of uninsured have stimulated a new round of health reform initiatives. Yet most politicians have steered clear of NHI, offering proposals for incremental reforms of the current system.

“How bad does it have to get before politicians are willing to prescribe the major surgery our health system needs? Premiums are skyrocketing and we already spend twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. 41 million people are uninsured, and millions more are under-insured and can’t afford vital medicines. How bad does it have to get before our politicians admit we need national health insurance?” asked Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, lead author of the proposal and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard.


The full list of signers is available on the internet, but will be password protected until the JAMA’s embargo is lifted. To obtain a password, members of the press may call (312) 782-6006.

Physicians for a National Health Program was founded in 1987 and includes physicians in every state and medical specialty. For local contacts or other information, contact PNHP’s headquarters in Chicago at (312) 782-6006 or visit:
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