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Doctors’ Group Greets Single-Payer Health Bill in Senate
Physicians for a National Health Program says Sen. Bernie Sanders’ American Health Security Act would go far beyond federal health law, slash bureaucracy and lay the basis for universal, high-quality care
WASHINGTON - May 10 - A national doctors’ group welcomed the introduction in the Senate today of a single-payer health reform bill that it said moves in the direction of providing comprehensive care to everyone, reducing wasteful paperwork, reining in health costs, and delivering better medical outcomes.
This morning Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced the introduction of the American Health Security Act of 2011, S. 915, in the U.S. Senate. Significantly, at Sanders’ side for the announcement was Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, among others.
“At a time when the airwaves are filled with talk about cutting or even ending Medicare,” said Dr. Garrett Adams, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, “Sen. Sanders has boldly stepped forward with the seemingly paradoxical proposition that the best way to financially strengthen the Medicare program is to upgrade it and expand it to cover everyone.”
Adams said that the improved-Medicare-for-all approach embodied in Sanders’ bill goes considerably beyond the Obama administration’s health law, which keeps the for-profit private health insurance industry at the center of the U.S. health system. This sacrifices universal coverage, efficiency and cost containment, he said.
“In contrast, Sanders’ legislation would cover nearly all 51 million people who currently lack coverage and improve benefits for everyone by eliminating co-pays and deductibles and restoring free choice of physician,” Adams said. “By slashing private insurance overhead and bureaucracy in doctors’ offices and hospitals, S. 915 would recapture about $400 billion annually that is currently wasted on unnecessary paperwork. That money, in turn, would be channeled back into high-quality clinical care.”
“Further, by using a single-payer system’s bargaining power, we would be able to negotiate lower prices for pharmaceuticals and other goods and services, allowing us to rein in rising health care costs,” he said.
Adams, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Louisville, Ky., continued: “We are confident that Sen. Sanders’ bill will spur the drive for the only national reform that the evidence shows will work and that poll after poll shows the public supports.”
“To be sure, the bill can still be improved upon,” he said. “For example, the program should cover all residents of the United States, including undocumented immigrants. That’s the right thing to do and it’s also good medicine. Similarly, the bill should exclude for-profit hospitals and other investor-owned providers such as dialysis clinics from the new system. Research has shown for-profit institutions deliver worse care at inflated prices.”
“That being said, the introduction of this bill is good news for the nation’s health,” he said. “We salute Sen. Sanders for his consistently outstanding leadership on this issue.”
Sanders, who serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, is a longtime advocate of fundamental health reform. His bill draws heavily on single-payer legislation introduced by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., in the early 1990s, and closely parallels similar legislation pending in the House, H.R. 1200, introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. The program would be federally funded but administered by the states.
Sanders is also working to get expedited waivers from the federal health law permitting states, including his home state of Vermont, to experiment with their own models of health reform.
A single-payer bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., H.R. 676, obtained 87 co-sponsors in the House during the last session. It has been reintroduced in the 112th Congress as the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act with the same bill number.