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PNHP RESOURCES

Doctors to Join National Protests Against Private Health Insurers

For immediate release:
June 18, 2008

Contacts:
John Geyman, M.D., (360) 378-6264
Don McCanne, M.D., (949) 493-3714
Garrett Adams, M.D., (502) 895-8847

Doctors and medical students will join with nurses, patients, union members and health care reform activists at a rally tomorrow in San Francisco and 16 other cities, charging that the private health insurance industry is responsible for 47 million Americans being uninsured, half of all personal bankruptcies and at least 18,000 deaths each year.

The biggest rally is set to take place outside San Francisco's Moscone Center, where delegates to the convention of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national trade association of the health insurance industry, will be listening to pro-industry figures like former Senators John Breaux and Bill Frist. About 35,000 insurance company executives are attending the meeting.

The physicians and others are calling for "guaranteed single-payer health care now," a nonprofit, Medicare-like national health insurance program that is supported by 59 percent of doctors and about two-thirds of the general public. A bill in Congress, H.R. 676, embodies the single-payer approach and has 90 co-sponsors, more than any other health reform proposal.

"Private health insurance is obsolete," said Dr. John Geyman, M.D., professor emeritus of family medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle and past president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Geyman is the author of six books, including the forthcoming "Do Not Resuscitate: Why the Health Insurance Industry is Dying, and How We Must Replace It."

Private health insurance has outlived its usefulness, he said, for the following reasons:

* it is much less efficient than public financing
* it fragments the risk pool by cherry-picking healthy patients
* it is the source of the epidemic of underinsurance
* administrative and overhead costs are excessive and insupportable
* profiteering is trumping patients' needs
* insurance premiums are too costly for middle-class families
* the industry has excessive political clout and resists regulation

"While there is widespread consensus that the nation's health care system is broken and in urgent need for reform, too little attention has been paid to the role of the private insurance industry in perpetuating our problems," Geyman said.

"Over the past 40 years, private insurance has evolved from a not-for-profit activity into a $300-billion-a-year, for-profit, investor-owned industry. The six biggest insurers made over $10 billion in profits in 2006. They did so by enrolling healthy people, denying claims, and screening out the sick, who are increasingly being shunted into our beleaguered public safety net programs."

"These for-profit companies have burdened our system with enormously wasteful administrative costs and skyrocketing CEO salaries, while leaving tens of millions uninsured and underinsured," Geyman continued. "The risk pool has been badly fragmented among more than 1,300 private insurers, defeating the goal of insurance, which is to provide coverage by sharing risk across a broad population. Premium prices continue to climb at a double-digit rate alongside other health costs."

"Thus, the average family premium for employer-based coverage was $11,500 in 2006, an increase of 87 percent from 2000," he said. "At the rate we are going, health insurance premiums will consume almost one-third of average household income by 2010 and all of household income by 2025."

"This clearly is not sustainable," Geyman said. "What is urgently needed is a transition to single-payer national health insurance, coupled with our private delivery system. By moving to such a system, patients would regain their choice of physician and hospital. The administrative savings alone would be $350 billion a year, enough to cover all of the uninsured and underinsured. That is the only realistic path to guaranteeing truly universal and equitable care to everyone at an affordable cost."


Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org), a membership organization of over 15,000 physicians, supports a single-payer national health insurance program. PNHP is headquartered in Chicago and has chapters across the United States. To contact a physician-spokesperson in your area, contact info@pnhp.org or call (312) 782-6006. For additional resource materials these and related topics, visit www.pnhp.org/research.

The June 19 protests are scheduled to take place in San Francisco; Albany, N.Y.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Harrisburg, Pa.; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Minnetonka, Minn.; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; New York City; Newark, N.J.; Oklahoma City; San Antonio and St. Louis.

For more information on the San Francisco protest, see www.singlepayernow.net or call 415-695-7891.