Single-Payer Advocates Win Seats at White House Health Summit

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mark Almberg, PNHP,  (312) 622-0996, mark@pnhp.org

Single-Payer Advocates Win Seats at White House Health Summit

Dr. Oliver Fein releases prepared remarks

WASHINGTON - Two
leading advocates of single-payer health reform, sometimes
characterized as an improved Medicare for All, received last-minute
invitations to attend the White House health care summit being held
today. The invitations were greeted as a victory by single-payer
supporters.

Rep.
John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chief sponsor of the single-payer U.S.
National Health Care Act, H.R. 676, was invited to attend the meeting
late in the day on Tuesday, and Dr. Oliver Fein, president of
Physicians for a National Health Program, was invited on Wednesday
afternoon.

The
White House invitations were extended to the two leaders after intense
grassroots lobbying efforts by single-payer supporters, who were
concerned that no single-payer voices would be present at the meeting.
The efforts included an outpouring phone calls and e-mail messages to
the White House, along with a threatened demonstration outside the
White House gates by doctors and other health professionals wearing
their white coats. The demonstration was called off when word arrived
that Rep. Conyers and Dr. Fein had been invited.

In
his prepared remarks, the full text of which follows, Dr. Fein says,
"We are pleased to be here today and appreciate the implicit
recognition of the majority support for single payer in our country. We
hope this is the beginning of a serious dialogue on how to enact
single-payer health reform and we look forward to working with
[President Obama] and the Congress toward this end."

Dr. Fein's prepared remarks for the summit follow.

Prepared remarks by Dr. Oliver Fein

Mr.
President, Physicians for a National Health Program agrees with your
statement during your presidential campaign: health care should be a
basic human right.

Physicians
recommend an improved and expanded Medicare-for-All - that is, a
single-payer national health insurance program, providing care that is
publicly financed but largely privately delivered. This fundamental
health reform - which enjoys solid majority support among physicians
and the public - has become even more urgently needed in view of our
severe economic recession.

Millions
of people are losing their employer-sponsored health insurance, joining
the 46 million who already lack coverage. Millions more, including
those with insurance, are finding it harder to pay their co-pays and
deductibles and are scrimping on their medications and doctor visits.
Many go without care, risking their health and often their very lives.

Physicians
find that private, for-profit health insurance companies add cost but
no value to the health care system. The administrative waste associated
with the private-insurance-based industry - enormous paperwork,
marketing costs, and other costs that have nothing to do with
delivering care  - consumes 31 cents of every health care dollar.

As long as we rely on private health insurers, universal coverage will be unaffordable.

Mandates
to buy private insurance are not the answer. Experience with mandate
plans in Washington state (1993), Oregon (1992) and Massachusetts (1988
and today), shows they simply don't work, achieving neither universal
health care nor cost containment.

Some
of these plans offer a Medicare-like, public option that people could
buy into, but experience with Medicare shows that the private plans
refuse to compete on a level playing field. They cherry-pick healthier
patients and insist on more than their share of payment.

In
contrast, single payer guarantees everyone access to comprehensive,
quality health care and choice of their own doctor and hospital.

Single-payer
health reform, an improved Medicare for All, is the only reform model
that offers $400 billion in annual savings in administrative costs. It
is the only approach that contains effective cost-containment
provisions such as bulk purchasing and global budgeting.

Such
economies would allow for expanding health coverage to everyone - with
no co-pays or deductibles - with no overall increase in health care
spending. In other words, it's the only health reform proposal that
pays for itself.

The
single-payer model is the only fiscally prudent proposal available, an
especially important consideration at a time of economic distress. And
we know from our experience with Medicare and other single-payer
systems that it will work.

With
a single-payer national health insurance program we can assure
lifelong, high quality, comprehensive and affordable coverage for
everyone. Such a program will lift the heavy burden of crushing medical
expenses off the shoulders of our population, expenses that often lead
to personal bankruptcy. And we can save lives: the Institute of
Medicine estimated in 2002 that more than 18,000 Americans die each
year from lack of health insurance. That number is certainly higher
today.

From
the standpoint of what benefits our patients, single payer is the
health policy model that best reflects their needs and values.

Support
for single payer is extensive. In a peer-reviewed statistical study in
the Annals of Internal Medicine, 59 percent of U.S. physicians said
they would support government action to establish national health
insurance. In a recent Associated Press poll, 65 percent of the
respondents said, "The United State should adopt a universal health
insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like
Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxes."

Single-payer
health reform is embodied in the U.S. National Health Care Act, H.R.
676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). It had 93 co-sponsors in
the 110th Congress, the most of any health reform legislation.

We
are pleased to be here today and appreciate the implicit recognition of
the majority support for single payer in our country. We hope this is
the beginning of a serious dialogue on how to enact single-payer health
reform and we look forward to working with you and the Congress toward
this end.

****
A short biography of Dr. Fein is available here: http://www.pnhp.org/stateactions/new_york/

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Physicians for a National Health Program is a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. PNHP has more than 15,000 members and chapters across the United States.

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