Posted on July 17, 2009

Doctors' group backs single-payer amendment to House health care bill


16,000 physicians urge passage of substitute ‘Medicare for all’ motion

July 16, 2009

Quentin Young, M.D., (312) 782-6006,
Mark Almberg, (312) 782-6006, cell: (312) 622-0996,

Calling the health reform bill released by House Democrats a “proven failure,” an organization of 16,000 doctors called today for the passage of an amendment to the bill that would essentially overturn it and implement a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system.

The single-payer amendment to H.R. 3200, the House tri-committee bill unveiled two days ago by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is scheduled to be offered by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) next Monday at the Energy and Commerce Committee, although it could be introduced as early as tomorrow.

Weiner is a co-sponsor of another House bill, the U.S. National Health Care Act, H.R. 676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Conyers’ bill, which has 85 co-sponsors, would create a single-payer system. Weiner’s amendment to H.R. 3200 would basically substitute the provisions of H.R. 676 for its present content.

Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, characterized the incremental reform bill offered by House Democrats this week as a “proven failure,” noting that state-based reforms of this type — Massachusetts being the latest example — have repeatedly foundered.

“The House proposal mimics the imploding Massachusetts reform,” Young said. “The state is dumping 30,000 legal residents off insurance, and the largest safety-net hospital is suing the state for decimating the hospital’s budget to shore up the reform. Meanwhile, 1 in 6 Massachusetts residents are unable to pay their medical bills, and 18 percent of residents with insurance skipped care last year because they couldn’t afford it. The Massachusetts model is no solution.”

Young greeted Weiner’s amendment, noting that it complements the efforts of other single-payer advocates who have lobbied, testified before Congress or otherwise pushed to ensure that national health insurance is “on the table” in the health reform debate.

Young added: “Although many supporters of the House tri-committee bill are well-intentioned, it’s an inconvenient truth that only by replacing the private health insurance industry with a single-payer, Medicare-for-All program can we save $400 billion annually on overhead and bureaucracy — enough to provide comprehensive, first-dollar coverage to all.”

The Chicago physician said a new study showing that 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are linked to medical bills or illness, and that three-quarters of those affected had insurance at the onset of their illness, is but the latest evidence that the private insurance model of financing care is breaking down and must be replaced.

“Surveys show that two-thirds of the public favor national health insurance, as do most physicians,” Young said. “Over 550 labor organizations support H.R. 676, as do scores of civic and religious groups and city governments. Our lawmakers should rise above the blandishments of the medical-industrial complex and vote for what’s in the nation’s best interest. That means supporting Weiner’s amendment and supporting H.R. 676.