If you watched C-Span yesterday you may have seen the Press Conference on Single Payers (I saw it when it was rerun in the middle of the night.) The statement by Dr. Margaret Flowers was a good summary of their intent and certainly makes some points that need to be examined as we throw away any real Health Care reform:
Statement By Dr. Margaret Flowers From the Press Conference on Single Payer Today
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Good Morning! I am Dr. Margaret Flowers. I am a pediatrician and the Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program. I also serve on the steering committee of the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care and on the board of Healthcare-Now, a national single payer grassroots organization…
Members of Physicians for a National Health Program (known as PNHP) educate and advocate for a single payer national health system, also known as Medicare for All. PNHP performs ground breaking research on the health crisis and the need for fundamental reform and contributes scholarly articles to peer-reviewed medical journals. PNHP takes pride in providing information that can inform legislators and the public about the reasons why Medicare for All is the optimal solution to provide necessary medical treatment to everyone in a way that controls health care costs. PNHP does not take a position on how congress members should vote on the legislation that is currently proceeding through congress. We do provide information to members about whether the legislation is likely to be effective and how it compares to a national single payer health system.
We share the growing sense of desperation among patients and providers across the nation, desperation which has been heightened by the economic crisis. Like you, we are hungry for change. We believe that we should act based on the evidence of what types of health reform have been most effective in the United States. Review of the current health insurance reform legislation reveals that it resembles health reforms that have recently been tried and have failed at the state level.
It is for the reasons listed below that we ask our legislators to start from scratch in order to create health reform that addresses the fundamental problems with health care in this nation and creates a health system that is of similar quality to those in the top industrialized nations.
1. During the time that it will take for the health insurance legislation to begin (2013 in the House version and 2014 in the Senate version), tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans will die.
2. Once the insurance reform takes effect, people will still be left without health insurance. Whether it is the 17 million left out of the House version or the 24 million left out of the Senate version, we find this unacceptable. We know that the actual number of uninsured people is likely to be higher than these estimates and we know that people without insurance have a 40% higher risk of death than those who have insurance.
3. Medical bankruptcies will continue to occur as families will face out-of-pocket costs on covered services of up to $10,000 in addition to the cost of premiums and the cost of uncovered services. The average medical debt that causes insured families to become bankrupt is $18,000.
4. People who are uninsured will suffer the further indignity of being forced to pay a fine which may be as high as 2.5% of their income (House version).
5. The number of people who are underinsured will increase with this legislation. People will be required to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. There is no guarantee that premiums will be affordable even for those who qualify for federal subsidies. Health insurers have already predicted that the cost of premiums will rise because they are being required to stop the practices of excluding pre-existing conditions and rescissions. The public insurance is estimated to be more expensive than private insurance plans. A similar reform in Massachusetts has resulted in a rise of patients who forego needed care because they cannot afford the co-pays and deductibles once they have paid for their premiums.
6. People will continue to be consigned to only receiving the quality of care that they can afford. Instead of a standardized benefit plan that covers all necessary care, people will have to choose from a tiered set of plans. The least expensive plans will cover only 60% of necessary care and patients will be required to pay the balance.
7. The legislation will not control health care costs and will in fact increase the waste in health care spending. The regulation of insurance companies, which has failed to date and is predicted to fail again by industry whistleblowers, will be expensive to enforce. And the “exchanges” will have to be created from scratch. The exchange will add another level of bureaucracy which in Massachusetts has added a 4% charge to each insurance premium. Unfortunately, this legislation does nothing to reclaim the hundreds of billions of dollars that are currently wasted on administration, paperwork and marketing for the hundreds of health plans in existence.
8. The legislation transfers hundreds of billions of public dollars to private insurance companies. People will be mandated to purchase health insurance whether they can afford it or not, so the insurance companies benefit by having millions of new enrollees. In addition, between $447 and $605 billion in public dollars (depending on the senate or house version) will be given to the private insurers in the forms of subsidies to help people purchase their defective product.
9. The legislation protects the outrageous profits of the pharmaceutical corporations. The majority of Americans will not see any improvement in the costs of medications and the pharmaceutical corporations have already raised prices on brand name prescriptions by 9% this year. Biotech firms receive a windfall 12 year patent on new pharmaceuticals.
10. The legislation continues to allow discrimination based on age and immigration status. Older enrollees can be charged up to twice as much as younger enrollees. And enrollees will be required to prove citizenship in order to receive subsidies. Non-citizens will be required to bear the full cost of purchasing insurance.
The current health insurance reform legislation passing through Congress amounts to a massive bailout of the profit-making health industries, which will enrich them and increase their ability to lobby and otherwise influence legislators in the future. At the same time, patients will receive little in the way of long-lasting protection or ability to afford needed health care. The legislation is designed to fail and in the meantime, will waste billions of dollars and delay the process of creating effective health reform.
We call on Congress to start from scratch. We believe that we have the resources in the United States to create a national health system that will improve the health of the people of our nation. We believe that being ranked 37th in the world for health outcomes is unacceptable and that we, as a nation, can do much better than this. We believe that improving and expanding Medicare to all people is the simplest and quickest way to achieve our goal of universal and financially-sustainable health care.
As far as the health insurance legislation in congress goes, we support Senator Sanders’ substitution amendment which will substitute public financing for the current complicated and wasteful patchwork of financing. We urge our senators to vote “yes” on the Sanders’ amendment.
No matter what happens in Congress this year, we will continue to build the Medicare for all movement until we reach the day when all who live in the United States receive the same health security that is a right in other industrialized nations. We look forward to the day when doctors are free to focus on the needs of their patients without interference by health insurance administrators. We welcome all people who support health care reform to join with us in this movement. Together, we will succeed.
Whether or not any of this will effect where we are heading right now is questionable… but this is a statement which should be listened to.
Thanks also to Politics After 50 for highlighting this speech.