Chicago Medical Society calls for study of single payer

By PNHP staff
PNHP Spring Newsletter, May 2016

The Chicago Medical Society has voted to create a “research committee to analyze the benefits and difficulties with instituting and maintaining a single-payer health care system in Illinois … and the United States, with consideration of both economic and health outcome and health disparity improvements.”

The action came at the society’s quarterly council meeting on Feb. 9, which drew about 80 participants, including a larger-than-usual group of medical students and residents.

The amended resolution passed unanimously, and it included a provision to forward the resolution to the Illinois State Medical Society and the AMA.

The measure that was ultimately adopted by the councilors, or delegates, was based in large part on the contents of an evidence-laden resolution titled “Single-payer health care: the logical solution that will not go away” introduced by Dr. Peter Orris, longtime CMS councilor and one of PNHP’s founding members.

Orris’ original resolution concluded by calling upon the CMS to formally endorse single payer. An active debate ensued. With the permission of the body, many students and some Chicago physicians who were not members of the council testified in favor of the proposal.

Speakers in support of the resolution pointed to the continuing financial hardships patients and their families are experiencing under the current multi-payer system, growing physician frustration with that system, and the moral imperative of achieving truly universal health care.

Strong opposition to the resolution was heard from a number of council members, with several confusing single payer with the underfunded socialized medical systems of the 1970s in Eastern Europe.

On a public “standing” vote, the “resolved” clause calling for CMS endorsement drew support from over one-third of the council members.

Orris notes that while this was more public support for single payer among the councilors than in the past, many members newly sympathetic to the single-payer alternative signaled a preference for a more deliberative approach.

Student Section member James Curry then offered an amendment changing the “resolved” language to a call for a CMS study of single payer’s economic and health impacts.

The amended resolution passed unanimously, including a provision to forward it to the Illinois State Medical Society and the AMA.

After the meeting, Curry said he was pleased that students from every medical school in the area were in attendance. “Single-payer health care means many things, but to its supporters, including medical students, it means one very fundamental thing: the right to health care.”

He said the society’s leadership has pledged to involve students in the organization of the society’s discussion of single payer, and has expressed a willingness to conduct a membership survey on the issue as well.