National Health Care Act worthy of public support

Helena Independent Record

Sick of health insurance costs? Then pay attention. Some in Congress want to perpetuate the power of insurance corporations over our health care and what we pay to get it. There is an alternative. The U.S. National Health Care Act: Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676 could be implemented within 13 months (like Medicare was) and unlike the Wall Street bailout, would be funded by eliminating waste while providing a real hand up for every American family and business -- except the insurance industry.

HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead costs and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Economic Policy Institute, and others a single-payer system saves enough to offset the costs of providing the health care, about $1.1 trillion. That is how other countries are under-spending, yet out-performing us in health care.

HR 676 would expand an improved Medicare as the publicly accountable "insurance" payer for all of us. Doctors would remain in private practice providing our care. Patients would be free to seek care with the doctor or hospital of their choice.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care.

In the 110th Congress, HR 676 had 93 co-sponsors in addition to its sponsor Rep. Conyers.

HR 676 has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Physicians for a National Health Program, 480 union organizations in 49 states including 118 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 AFL-CIO's (including Montana).

HR 676, as part of its funding, calls for a modest increase in payroll taxes to replace insurance premiums, and economists estimate that both businesses and individuals would pay less than they do now.

Is there support for such reforms? Oh yes! In 2008, the National Federation of Independent Business survey found a majority of businesses polled preferred a payroll tax to fund employee health care rather than our current insurance system. Large independent polls also find a majority (64-65 percent) of Americans support a federally funded single payer approach to health care (AP/Yahoo, CBS News/New York Times, Harvard School of Public Health, and CNN, 2007-2008). People are ready for reform -- now for the politicians!

Senator Baucus needs to hear that we don't need or want a health care plan like the expensive and complicated Medicare drug plan. Ask Senator Baucus to put the greatest public good ahead of corporate profits -- ask him to set aside his white paper and sponsor HR 676 in the Senate. Call him at: (800) 828-0498 or (800) 332-6106, or come March 1 at 6 p.m. to the YWCA on Park Avenue to hear Bob Putsch, M.D. "Making Sense of Health Care Reform," to learn more.

Beth Sirr is a family nurse practitioner in Helena.