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South Carolina chapter of PNHP forming

Health professionals from the Charleston area and around the state are forming a South Carolina chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program to promote a Medicare-for-all approach to health care

By Jonathan Allen
Mount Pleasant Patch, Aug. 28, 2012

While one of the contentious issues in the presidential race will be whether to repeal Obamacare, a growing number of medical professionals is calling for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all approach instead.

David Ball, a nurse at MUSC, is the S.C. Coordinator for the newly formed South Carolina Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, a group that has advocated a single-payer health care system for more than 25 years.

Ball is among the more than 18,000 health care professionals across the United States that want to see the U.S. adopt a socialized medicine model that conservatives claim to loathe. He said Obamacare was a positive step in that it extends health insurance to millions of people that wouldn't have been able to get it otherwise, but that it will fail to control health care costs.

"About half of the people that didn't have insurance before got it, there are no more lifetime caps, kids can stay on their parents' plan until they are 26, so there are some really good things in there," Ball said. "The bad thing is we're being eaten alive by costs."

The PNHP position is that the only effective way to control the cost of health care is to cut out the administrative costs incurred by utilizing a private health insurance industry. The group points to statistics like Medicare's overhead costs are 3.1 percent whereas the overhead for private insurers ranges from 16.3 percent to 26.5 percent.

Between 1970 and 2000, Ball said, the country's health care costs have risen by 2,700 percent. During the same period the number of doctors in the country has roughly doubled, so most of the growth is coming from administrative costs, he said.

"If you go to Duke Medical Center, they have 900 beds," Ball said. "And they have 900 billing clerks, one for every bed. It's wildly inefficient, but in the environment we have today, it is what is necessary."

The U.S. spends more money per capita on health care, and nearly double next highest spending nation, France, than any other industrialized nation, and has worse overall health outcomes, Ball said.

He adds, Medicare is a program that works and is well liked, and should be expanded to everyone.

"What we're talking about is the elimination of the private health insurance industry," he said.

Decoupling health insurance from employment would be a boon for small businesses which may not have been able to afford to offer health benefits to employees, Ball said.

"We talk about choice," he said. "I want the freedom to choose whatever job I want and not have to worry about health insurance, but you have to."

Membership in the S.C. Chapter of PNHP is open to doctors, nurses and others in medical fields. For more information on the chapter contact Ball at ballds@musc.edu.

http://mountpleasant-sc.patch.com/articles/s-c-chapter-of-pnhp-forming