The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

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Massachusetts Is No Model for National Health Care Reform

Public Interest Groups Urge Sen. Kennedy to Introduce Single Payer Legislation


The Massachusetts health care system, widely regarded as an example
of how to provide universal coverage and keep costs low, is in fact
faltering badly and should not be held up as a national model for
reform, according to a study released today by Physicians for a
National Health Program (PNHP) and Public Citizen.

The groups urged Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.) to reject his home
state's approach and, instead, introduce Senate legislation crafted
after the House's United States National Health Care Act, H.R. 676,
which would implement single-payer financing of health care while
maintaining the private delivery system. The public interest groups
also released a letter to Kennedy signed by more than 500 Massachusetts
physicians and health professionals urging the senator to embrace
single payer reform.

"Massachusetts physicians have the unique opportunity to observe the
effects of this reform on patients every day," said Rachel Nardin, M.D., president of the Massachusetts chapter of PNHP
and lead author of the study. "The nearly 500 doctors who have signed
the open letter to Sen. Kennedy see that the reform is deeply flawed."

PNHP's study of the Massachusetts model
found that the state's 2006 reforms, instead of reducing costs, have
been more expensive than expected. The budget overruns have forced the
state to siphon about $150 million from safety net providers, such as
public hospitals and community clinics.

Many low-income residents, who used to receive completely free care,
now face copayments, premiums and deductibles under the new system -
financial burdens that prevent many of them from receiving necessary
medical treatment. Since the state's reforms passed, premiums under the
state insurance program have increased 9.4 percent. The study found
that if a middle-income person on the cheapest available state plan got
sick, he or she could end up paying $9,872 in premium, deductible and
co-insurance for the year.

Many residents remain uninsured, or have inadequate insurance.

Under a single-payer system doctors, hospitals, and other health
care providers are paid from a single fund administered by the

"A single-payer system will make health care accessible to all
Americans by automatically covering everyone under one national health
insurance plan," said Sidney Wolfe, M.D.,
director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "We are facing a
health-care crisis in this country because private insurers are driving
up costs with unnecessary overhead, bloated executive salaries and an
unquenchable quest for profits - all at the expense of American

The study found that a national non-profit single-payer system could
save Massachusetts about $8 billion to $10 billion a year in reduced
administrative costs. Currently, Americans spend 31 cents of every
health care dollar on administrative costs, by far the highest rate in
the world and much higher than the 17 cents spent in Canada, which has
single-payer universal health care.

"Big hospitals and insurers have gotten rich off reform, but a
survey shows that more people directly affected by it have been harmed
that helped," said Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., a PNHP
co-founder and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical
School who helped prepare the study. "We're seeing patients who now
can't afford vital medications and treatments that they've been on for
years because of the new copayments and deductibles imposed by the law,"

To read an embargoed copy of the report, "Massachusetts' Plan: A Failed Model for Health Care Reform," go to Prior to 11 AM tomorrow, you will need to use the password nardin.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

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