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U.S. Health Care System, Dominated by the Insurance Industry, Must Be Replaced With ‘Medicare-for-All’

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

WASHINGTON - It is appropriate that filmmaker Michael Moore returns us to first
principles, because the big picture of health care reform has been so
badly obscured during the political theater of the past many months.
Those first principles are: Health care is a right, and the private
health insurance industry must be replaced. It is too cruel, too
inhumane, too arbitrary, too bureaucratic and too inefficient.

With our private health insurance industry-dominated system, the
United States spends far more than other wealthy nations on health care
(at least 50 percent more than every country except Luxembourg) but
sports middling health indicators. Our private health insurance
industry-dominated system permits 45 million people to live without
health insurance, denying them access to preventative and routine care,
resulting in the death of at least 35,000 people a year. Our private
health insurance industry-dominated system tolerates private health
insurance companies making life-and-death rationing decisions for
millions of people with only minimal accountability. Our private health
insurance industry-dominated system lets private health insurers refuse
to take sick people as customers and engage in endless manipulations to
discard its customers if they do become sick. Our private health
insurance industry-dominated system features a system in which medical
bills and illness contribute to almost two of every three personal
bankruptcies – even though three-quarters of these bankrupt people had
insurance when they became sick.

Not least, our private health insurance industry-dominated health
care system translates into a private health insurance
industry-dominated political system. As a result, too many politicians
refuse to consider real solutions.

There is a cure all for these ills. It is a Medicare-for-All,
single-payer system, in which the government pays medical bills (thus
operating as the “single payer”).

In a Medicare-for-All system, health care is available as a matter
of right. No one is denied treatment because they can’t pay. No one is
mandated to buy coverage. No one is denied coverage because of
pre-existing conditions. No one goes bankrupt paying medical bills.

In a Medicare-for-All system, we save $400 billion in costs – enough
to cover all of the uninsured. No scandalous CEO pay packages. No money
siphoned out of the system by rent-seeking middlemen. No needless
paperwork and bureaucracy.

In a Medicare-for-All system, we succeed by doing away with the private health insurance industry.

Unfortunately, instead of advocating this approach – which President
Obama supported as a state senator, and which he still says would be
superior if the system was being designed from scratch – the Obama
administration has sought to reach an accommodation with the insurance
industry, as well as hospitals and Big Pharma.


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This had led to a policy debate that has spiraled downward into
ever more trivial reform proposals while diverting attention from the
underlying problem: the rip-off insurers, price-gouging Big Pharma and
increasingly profit-hungry hospitals.

Fortunately, the grassroots movement for Medicare-for-All – animated
by the idea of everybody in, nobody out – has refused to accept
official Washington’s determination about “political feasibility.”
Thanks to patients, nurses, doctors and everyday people talking to
their neighbors, calling and e-mailing their members of Congress,
writing letters to the editor, rallying, researching, testifying,
conducting civil disobedience and more, Medicare-for-All is gaining

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has successfully introduced an
amendment in one of the House health care bills that would facilitate
states’ adopting their own single-payer system.

And Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has obtained assurances that he
will be able to introduce H.R. 676, the stand-alone Medicare-for-All
proposal in the House of Representatives, as an amendment in full House
consideration of health care legislation. This will represent the first
time either the full House or Senate has voted on a Medicare-for-All

We are hopeful as well that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will be able
to secure votes on both a states’ rights amendment and on a
Medicare-for-All proposal.

Medicare-for-All is the only solution to the twin problems of escalating health care costs and the epidemic of the uninsured.

Medicare-for-All is supported by a majority of nurses, a majority of
doctors and a majority of the public. It is only a matter of time
before it is supported by a majority of members of Congress.


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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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