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Ky docs call for single national health plan

By Deborah Yetter
The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, May 11, 2016

Arguing that health care in America costs too much and too many people go without it, a group of local physicians, medical students and others on Tuesday called for a single system of health coverage in this country.

Standing before the University of Louisville medical school, speakers said it's time to move beyond the Affordable Care Act, which expanded coverage to many Americans, and extend it to everyone through a single, public-funded system such as Medicare.

"The Affordable Care Act has helped," said Dr. Barbara Casper, a U of L professor of medicine and chief of internal medicine. "But we still have a significant number of people falling through the cracks."

Tuesday's event held by Kentuckians for Single Payer Healthcare follows the recent call in the American Journal of Public Health for a single, national health care system similar to that of most industrialized countries. It was signed by more than 2,200 doctors nationwide.

Several physicians and medical students called on more Kentuckians to join the movement, saying they see too often the adverse impact on patients who lack coverage or can't afford the costs of their health plans, such as high deductibles and copays.

Mallika Sabharwal, a U of L medical student and president of Students for a National Health Program, said she experienced firsthand the effects of lack of coverage after her family emigrated to the United States from India when she was younger. The family didn't always have health coverage and that meant sometimes going without needed medical care, she said.

Brandi Jones, a U of L medical student and past president of the group, said she supports universal coverage because as a future physician dedicated to healing people and saving lives, she can't "condone a system that allows people to die."

Speakers at Tuesday's event acknowledged it will be a tough political battle to sell a national health plan, possibly by expanding the current Medicare system to all Americans.

"We need a Congress with a very stronger spine," said Dr. Edgar Lopez, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

The current model in the United States is simply unsustainable, said Dr. Morris Weiss, a cardiologist who said America spends far more of its gross domestic product on health care than European nations such as France, Germany and Italy – with far less to show for it.

When it comes to health outcomes, "we're one of the bottom countries of all the industrialized nations," he said.

Dr. Syed Quadri, a physician who runs a free health clinic in Elizabethtown, said the nation must address the growing problem of working people who can't afford health care.

At the Community Health Clinic he opened in 2002, Quadri said he sees many working people who make too much for Medicaid – the government plan for the poor – but can't afford private plans that often come with high costs.

Such individuals often come to the free clinic "very reluctantly," he said. "They don't want a handout."

Seeing those patients and others without health coverage prompted him to join the movement for a national health plan, Quadri said.

"This is the only way to bring health care to everyone in the country," he said.

Contact reporter Deborah Yetter at (502)582-4228 or at dyetter@courier-journal.com.

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2016/05/10/ky-docs-call-single-national-health-plan/84150928/