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PNHP RESOURCES

Doctors group: Obama plan leaves millions uninsured, boosts private insurers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    
Feb. 24, 2010

Contact:
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Quentin Young, M.D., (312) 782-6006
Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006

President Obama's health care proposal, preserving as it does a central role for the for-profit, private health insurance industry, is incapable of achieving the kind of universal, comprehensive and affordable reform the country needs, a spokesman for a national doctors' group said Wednesday.

"Regrettably, the president's proposal is built on some of the worst aspects of the Senate bill," said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization of 17,000 doctors who support a single-payer, Medicare-for-All approach to reform. Young's statement comes on the eve of the president's bipartisan summit in Washington.

"For example, the president's proposal would ship hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the private health insurance industry in the form of subsidies," Young said. "And to help finance this, it would impose a new tax on health benefits of workers, especially those in high-cost states.

"Its individual mandate would force millions of middle-income uninsured Americans to buy insurers' skimpy products - insurance policies full of gaps like ever-rising co-pays, deductibles and premiums. Such policies already leave middle-class American families vulnerable to economic hardship and medical bankruptcy in the event of a serious illness like cancer," continued Young, citing a recent study.

"Even so, at least 23 million people would remain uninsured," he said. "We know that being uninsured raises your chance of dying by about 40 percent," he continued, citing another recent study. "That translates into about 23,000 unnecessary deaths each year. As physicians, we find this completely unacceptable."

"In short," Young said, "this proposal is an insurance company bonanza, not good, evidence-based health reform. The president would do better by abandoning the insurance and drug companies and instead taking up the single-payer approach." His group has estimated that such an approach could save hundreds of billions of dollars annually by simplifying health administration.

"By building on and improving the already popular Medicare program, we could put our patients' interests first," he said. "Were President Obama to do so, he would meet with strong public support, including from the medical community."

Although the physicians' group requested an invitation to Thursday's summit at Blair House, no reply from the White House has been forthcoming, Young said. Similarly, requests from Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Anthony Weiner of New York and Peter Welch of Vermont that single-payer advocates be included in the meeting have apparently gone unanswered.

Outside the Blair House on Thursday, a grassroots "Sidewalk Summit for Medicare for All" will underscore popular support for the measure.

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Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) has a number of national spokespersons who can talk about President Obama's health reform proposal, along with local spokespersons in virtually every state. To arrange for an interview, call (312) 782-6006 or (312) 622-0996, or write info@pnhp.org.