National health-insurance bill backed

Measure calls for public financing
By Paul Wilson
The (Louisville) Courier-Journal
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The director of the Louisville Metro Health Department and others called last night for single-payer health insurance -- described as Medicare for everyone -- to ensure quality medical care for all Americans.

"Health care is about life and death, and it should not be driven by market factors," said Dr. Adewale Troutman, speaking to about 15 people at a community forum at the Braden Center, 3208 W. Broadway.

"This is an issue of human rights and social justice," he added. Troutman said that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance -- and that millions more are underinsured.

Troutman was joined by Dr. Garrett Adams, president of Kentucky's Physicians for a National Health Care Program, and Kay Tillow, coordinator of Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Insurance, in support of legislation introduced this year by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., that would make health care "publicly financed but privately delivered."

Under Conyers' bill, health care would be administered by the federal government, not by insurance companies, which Adams described as parasites on U.S. health care.

"As the number of uninsured grows, the number of administrators grow," Adams said. "Is that right?"

About 50 House members joined Conyers in co-sponsoring the bill.

But U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville, who represents Kentucky's 3rd District, said a nationalized health system would bankrupt the country and lower the quality of care.

Critics also say that countries with national health care, such as Canada, drive doctors away, and sometimes require patients to wait years for some procedures.

Troutman dismissed both concerns as unfounded. After hearing the presentation, Ruth Weathers of western Louisville called the single-payer idea "superb."

She said her husband died when she was 40 -- 25 years before she was eligible for health insurance from Medicare.

No longer covered by her husband's insurance, Weathers worked two part-time jobs to pay for medical coverage.

But she wondered about the chances of Conyers' legislation passing.

"It's possible, but probable?" Weathers asked.

"We've got a long way to go, especially with this government that's more concerned with haves than have-nots."