Open Letter to President Obama to Support Single-Payer Health Care

Dear Colleague,

We invite you to sign the following “Open Letter to President Obama” urging him to endorse single-payer health reform.

The battle for genuine health reform has intensified, as has the terrible crisis in our health care system. Now more than ever we have a responsibility as physicians to speak out for the only reform that can provide truly universal, comprehensive and affordable care: single-payer national health insurance. We are strengthened by knowing that our viewpoint is shared by the majority of our colleagues and the public.

In addition to signing the Open Letter yourself, please distribute it as widely as possible among your colleagues and professional groups (societies, practice organizations, academic units, etc.).

We also urge you to invite your colleagues to support our campaign for single-payer reform by joining or making a tax-deductible donation to PNHP (donation or membership is not required to endorse the letter); organizing a local presentation or discussion of health reform options; or participating in other PNHP activities.

Thank you for your support at this historic time.

Marcia Angell, M.D.
Past Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine
Senior Lecturer, Harvard Medical School
Oliver Fein, M.D.
Assoc. Dean, Weill Cornell Medical College
President, Phys. for a National Health Program
Arnold S. Relman, M.D.
Past Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine
Professor Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
Quentin Young, M.D.
Nat'l Coordinator, Phys. for a National Health Program
Past President, American Public Health Association
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard
Co-founder, Phys. for a National Health Program
James G. Kahn, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor, UCSF School of Medicine
Chair, California Physicians Alliance
David L. Scheiner, M.D.
President Obama's longtime personal physician
Internist, Chicago, IL

Open Letter to President Obama to Support Single-Payer Health Care

Dear President Obama:

We are physicians from across the spectrum of our profession; primary care doctors and specialists, public health experts and administrators. We work in hospitals and clinics, private practices and universities, corporations and public agencies. Some of us are young, still in training; others are greatly experienced, and some have held senior positions in American medicine.

We applaud you for reopening the national discussion of health care reform, and enthusiastically endorse your call for reform that would assure universal, comprehensive coverage at an affordable price, while improving the quality of care. Yet we are dismayed by recent developments in Washington. The single payer reform that could achieve our shared goals has been dismissed from consideration in favor of proposals that will neither fulfill your promises nor meet our patients’ urgent needs.

Like most of our colleagues and the majority of the general public, we believe that single-payer reform is the standard against which other health reforms should be measured. Sound single payer proposals have been introduced in both the House of Representatives (H.R. 676, The U.S National Health Care Act) and the Senate (S. 703, The American Health Security Act of 2009).

Single payer reform, as embodied in these bills, would eliminate the bewildering patchwork of private insurance plans with their exorbitant overhead and profits, as well as the costly paperwork burdens they impose on providers. These savings on bureaucracy - nearly $400 billion annually – are sufficient to cover all of the uninsured and to provide first dollar coverage for all Americans. No other approach can provide comparable coverage at a cost our nation can afford.

Mr. President, you once embraced a single payer reform that would threaten private insurers, and foresaw its passage if Democrats regained control of the House, the Senate and the White House. These conditions have been met. Yet now Democrats propose diverting additional billions to private insurers by requiring middle class Americans to purchase defective policies from these firms – policies with so many gaps and loopholes that they currently leave millions of our insured patients vulnerable to financial ruin.

Moreover, a “public plan option” would do little to mitigate the damage of a reform that perpetuates private insurers’ dominant role. Even a robust public option would forego 90% of the bureaucratic savings achievable under single payer. And a kinder, gentler public option would quickly fail in a health care marketplace where competition involves a race to the bottom, not the top, where insurers compete by NOT paying for care. But HHS Secretary Sebelius has made clear that any public option will be far worse than that, specifically crafted to prevent it from evolving to a single payer. This kind of public option would amount to a government-run clone of private insurance, reproducing the worst features of private plans.

Mr. President, we ask that you join us in endorsing single payer reform as the only practicable means to reach our shared goals, and H.R. 676 and S. 703 as the appropriate starting point for debate in the House and Senate.


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