For Immediate Release
Obama's Health Care Reform Policy Is the Wrong Prescription, Say President's Former Physician and Public Health Groups
President and Congress urged to support legislation for single-payer health reform
WASHINGTON - On the 44th anniversary of Medicare's creation, President Barack
Obama's former primary care physician has joined leading public health
groups in calling on the White House and Congress to solve the health
care crisis by instituting a national single-payer health care system.
Dr. David Scheiner served as President Obama's doctor at a clinic
based in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood from 1987 to 2009. A strong
Obama supporter, Scheiner nevertheless is secure enough in his
convictions to publicly voice his difference with the president's
approach to health care reform.
"Our nation is at a crossroads," Scheiner said. "We must not give in
to the insurance and drug companies and instead do what is right for
all Americans," noting that a single-payer, Medicare-for-All program is
the way to go.
The groups at Thursday's news conference include Healthcare-NOW!,
Public Citizen and Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the
latter of which will release a letter to President Obama and Congress
this morning from more than 3,500 physicians and medical students
calling for single payer. Scheiner is a member of the physicians' group.
The call for reform comes as grassroots single-payer advocates from
across the nation, including Scheiner, gather today to rally support
and urge the White House and Congress to implement a plan that would
cover everyone - expanded and improved Medicare for all. Throughout the
recent health care reform push, this type of national reform has been
considered "off the table," even though proposed half-measures,
including the so-called public plan option, would still leave millions
uninsured and lack the cost-control tools single-payer would offer.
In calling for a national single-payer system, Scheiner points to
Medicare, a successfully functioning single-payer program since 1965
that now serves 45 million Americans, as a model. "In the 40 years I
have been practicing under Medicare, I have never encountered an
instance where Medicare has prevented proper medical care," Scheiner
said. "On the other hand, [private] insurance companies frequently
interfere and block appropriate care."
Recent research in the health policy journal Health Affairs supports
Scheiner's observations, showing that compared with people who receive
private health insurance through employers, people covered by Medicare
"report fewer problems obtaining medical care, less financial hardship
due to medical bills, and higher overall satisfaction with their
Added Dr. Sidney Wolfe, acting president of Public Citizen and
director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, "We should be
celebrating the 44th anniversary of Medicare by finally passing
legislation that would truly result in everybody in, nobody out,
instead of seriously considering legislation that guarantees that
millions still will be left out just so the private health insurance
industry can stay in."
Under a national single-payer system, doctors, hospitals and other
health care providers are paid from a single fund administered by the
government. The high administrative costs and wasteful spending
associated with the private health insurance industry would be
eliminated, resulting in savings of nearly $400 billion annually and
enabling all Americans to receive high-quality care, including those
who currently have insurance but still cannot afford medications and
"As President Obama says, ‘We must build on what works and leave out
what doesn't,'" said Katie Robbins, assistant national coordinator for
Healthcare-NOW! "President Obama also stated at a recent press
conference in Cleveland that single payer is the only way to cover
everyone. We agree and ask that he implement a single-payer system as
not only the best way, but the only way, to meet his goals for quality,
affordable health care for all Americans."
In Congress, 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," said Dr. Margaret Flowers of PNHP. "These
savings on bureaucracy are sufficient to cover all of the uninsured and
to provide first-dollar coverage for all Americans."
Added Pennsylvania state Sen. Jim Ferlo, "While I commend the
president and the 111th Congress for thoroughly addressing this most
important domestic issue in terms of its impact on our economic and
social well-being, I cannot support the enactment of anything less than
a single-payer proposal." Sen. Ferlo is co-convening sponsor of State
Legislators for Single-Payer Healthcare, a nationwide campaign of state
lawmakers who advocate for national single-payer.