The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mark Almberg, Physicians for a National Health Program,
(312) 782-6006,
David Lerner or Karmen Ross, Riptide Communications,
(212) 260-5000

Single-Payer Advocate Joins Doctors' Meeting at White House


Dr. Paul Hochfeld, an emergency room physician and prominent advocate for a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health program, was unexpectedly admitted to a meeting of about 150 physicians with President Obama today.

Upon emerging from the gathering in the Rose Garden, which consisted mainly of a speech by the president to the assembly, he said: "Unfortunately, the current bills in Congress and the similar measures supported by the president will not fix the health care crisis - they will only perpetuate the miserable situation we presently have. These incremental reforms will leave the for-profit, private insurance industry in the driver's seat. The insurance companies will continue to deny claims and raise premiums. Tens of millions will remain uninsured and underinsured. There will be no cost control.

"Today, instead of a health care system, we have a for-profit private-insurance-based sick-care non-system," he said. "The president should use the current Medicare system and quickly improve and expand it to all people in our nation. In addition, only those who are knowledgeable in public health, health policy and health economics and who do not have ties to the health industry should write the health legislation. Those who themselves or whose families have directly suffered because of the deficiencies of the current non-system should also be involved in the drafting of the bill. The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, on the other hand, have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are only interested in corporate profits. They should be kept out of the room."

The Portland, Ore.-based physician was part of a delegation of about 15 pro-single-payer doctors organized by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) who gathered outside White House gates this morning with the aim of participating in the meeting or otherwise explaining to those in attendance why the current bills advancing in Congress will not end the nation's long health care nightmare. At the last minute, Hochfeld was admitted to the gathering.

Hochfeld said that many physicians whom he spoke with at the gathering share his opinion that the health care reform process has been corrupted by corporate money from the health industry, but feel some kind of action is needed.

However, Hochfeld said, "If we pretend to fix health care with a piecemeal reform that leaves things basically as they are, we will waste precious time. We won't revisit health reform again for many years, and by then this inequitable and dysfunctional non-system will have inflicted pain, suffering and financial ruin on untold millions of additional victims - both those with insurance and those without."

Hochfeld is no newcomer to single-payer advocacy, having been producer of the film "Health, Money and Fear" and having been a leader of just-completed Mad As Hell Doctors Tour, a 26-city, cross-country tour advocating "an expanded and improved Medicare for All." In the course of the nationwide tour, which involved about a dozen physicians and other health professionals who traveled by car caravan from Portland, Ore., to Washington, D.C., the doctors succeeded in getting thousands of supporters to e-mail the White House requesting that the president meet with the group.

Hochfeld is by no means alone in these views. A survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year showed 59 percent of all U.S. physicians support government legislation to enact national health insurance, an increase of 10 percentage points from five years before.

Physicians for a National Health Program is a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. PNHP has more than 21,000 members and chapters across the United States.