Physicians say U.S. needs single-payer national health insurance program

By Roger Brown
Bristol Herald Courier, May 10, 2012

BRISTOL, Va. -- The United States must move toward adopting a single-payer national health insurance program or continue to risk seeing its future threatened by an inadequate system that wastes huge amounts of money and keeps millions of Americans from getting necessary medical care, two longtime physicians and health care advocates said Wednesday.

“Our current health care system has made medical care too much of a commercial business, instead of a basic right for every American,” said Dr. Garrett Adams, a Louisville, Ky., pediatrician and president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), which represents some 18,000 physicians across the U.S.

Dr. Art Sutherland, a retired Memphis cardiologist and president of PNHP’s 150-member Tennessee chapter, echoed Adams’ statements and said more and more Americans – realizing that the current medical system isn’t adequate – are showing support for a national health insurance program that would cover all Americans, dramatically expand Medicare and be publicly funded.

"The public is getting smarter about this, and so are physicians,” Sutherland said. “They know that what we have doesn’t work and that [a national health insurance program] has got to happen.”

Adams and Sutherland made their comments during an interview at the Bristol office of East Tennessee State University Family Physicians, part of their two-day tour across the Tri-Cities to promote PNHP’s call for the U.S. to adopt a publicly financed, national health insurance program.

The doctors said that in addition to providing medical care for all Americans and saving money in general, a national plan would eliminate the financial burden on businesses to provide health care insurance for employees. Companies, like individuals, would simply pay taxes designed to support the program.

A national, single-payer health program, Adams and Sutherland said, would also reduce the excessive influence of health-insurance companies that are largely focused on making profits for shareholders – and often make decisions on whether to cover patients based solely on financial factors.

“If we have the best health care system in the world, why are ranked No. 37th in the world for health care efficiency, which includes issues like infant mortality, life expectancy and immunization?” Adams said, noting a 2010 report by the World Health Organization.

“It’s because the quality of our health care has dropped because of the increasing commercialization of our health care system,” he said. “We’ve got too much money being wasted on administrative costs and too many Americans unable to afford or receive the medical care they need.”

According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year, 17.1 percent of Americans have no health insurance, an increase from 16.8 percent in 2010. Both physicians said that while President Obama’s efforts to reform health care, which became law in 2009, have had some benefits, the measure still won’t cover the medical needs of millions of Americans.

And they added that the current health reform law hasn’t lessened the influence of insurers, who have actively resisted major change to the current, costly medical system.

“We give President Obama credit for trying,” Adams said. “But [the current health reform law] just makes some things much more complex. And it’s still keeping the fox in the henhouse.”