Doctor: Care for all is right thing to do

Pediatrician says cost would be less than current levels

By Patricia C. McCarter
Huntsville Times
Thursday, October 01, 2009

Everybody in. Nobody out.

With these four words, Huntsville pediatrician Pippa Abston described what she believes is the best health care option for America. She also described it as “Medicare for all,” a concept that concerns citizens who don’t support the federal government getting bigger.

At a Wednesday night meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Abston told an audience of nearly 100 people that health care is a human right, and that providing insurance for everyone - regardless of whether they “exercise and eat their vegetables” - is the moral thing to do.

“I have nothing against capitalism. ?I’m not talking about across-the-board socialism,” but health care and big profits don’t belong together, she said.

The meeting was organized by UAH College Democrats and North Alabama Health Care for All.

What Abston wants is a single-payer system, with that payer being the federal government. Under the plan she supports - as pitched in House Bill 676 by Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan - private health insurance would go away.

From cradle to grave, the government would pay for citizens’ medical coverage, via a payroll tax of about 4.5 percent, “which is considerably less than what people pay for health care premiums.” It would cover doctor visits, hospital stays, preventive medicine, home health care and prescription drugs.

Abston said the cost would be substantially less than what is currently spent on health care because the government could negotiate better costs, and high salaries of insurance executives would go away. By everyone, rich and poor, having the same insurance, she said the wealthy and powerful will make certain it has excellent benefits.

The pediatrician said America is 50th in life expectancy among developed nations, a fact she said points to a lack of quality care for the elderly and the needy.

When asked if she thought she was being idealistic to back such a radical change in health care, Abston said she didn’t think she was supporting an impossible dream.

“During the civil rights movement, who would’ve thought we’d have an African-American president in 2009?” she said. “That would’ve been an idealistic thought, but here we are.

“A lot of doctors have told me they’re for (Medicare for all), but they don’t think it will happen. I think they gave up too soon. It makes sense.”