Single-payer advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program is demanding that the Republican-led House of Representatives not repeal the federal health reform law passed last year. Instead, PNHP is calling on Congress to go beyond the law and expand Medicare to everyone. A vote on repeal is scheduled for Wednesday, after being postponed for a week because of the deadly shootings in Tucson, Arizona. Even though the Republicans have more than enough votes for repeal, they will face opposition in the Senate and a presidential veto. The following statement by PNHP was released Jan. 7:
‘Don’t repeal health law – go beyond it to single-payer Medicare for all’: doctor’s group
A nationwide organization of doctors who favor a single-payer health care system today rejected calls by Republican leaders to repeal the new health law, noting that the law contains modest benefits for patients that should not be spurned.
At the same time, the doctors said that the enactment of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all program is the only way to assure high quality, comprehensive care to all Americans and the only way to rein in skyrocketing health care costs.
“We reject the call by Republican leaders to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), even as we recognize the new law is incapable of resolving our health care morass,” said Dr. Garrett Adams, president of the 18,000-member Physicians for a National Health Program.
“The health law is flawed because it continues our nation’s reliance on an inefficient and wasteful private-insurance-based model of financing care – a rickety structure that denies health care access to millions, bankrupts patients, ratchets up costs and frustrates efforts to improve quality,” he said.
“That’s why we need to move to a single-payer system,” he said. “In doing so, we’ll save about $400 billion annually by cutting out the unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy inflicted on us by the private insurers. We’ll also gain the one-system bargaining power we need to negotiate lower prices for pharmaceutical drugs and medical supplies.” (The governor and legislature of Vermont are well on their way to enacting a single-payer health insurance plan for that state, and now working its way through California’s legislature a bill (SB-810), that would do the same for that state.)
Adams said the “modest” benefits in the administration’s health law include greater funding of community health centers, the expansion of Medicaid coverage, and “measures to restrict some of the most outrageous practices of the private health insurance companies like denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or rescinding coverage when people get sick.”
“These beneficial measures could have been enacted separately,” Adams said. “But now that they’re part of the law, we cannot in good conscience support the repeal of any provisions that might conceivably benefit our patients.”
Adams said Republican leaders’ call to repeal PPACA is especially objectionable, given that they have no serious alternative to offer by way of health care reform.
“The GOP and conservatives urge greater reliance on the private sector and ‘free market’ mechanisms, including less regulation of the insurance industry,” Adams said. “Such measures include allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, which would lead them to buy junk insurance policies from companies in states where consumer protections have been all but eviscerated. It would mean a race to the bottom to even skimpier insurance policies than people have now.”
He also dismissed claims by the Republican leadership that tort reform will significantly affect the U.S. health care scene, noting that research has shown malpractice suits have a marginal impact on the costs of medical care.
“The proposals emanating from the GOP leaders would do nothing to control costs or reduce the enormous administrative waste in our current health care system,” he said. “They would do nothing to reduce the number of uninsured. In fact, the number of uninsured, now at 51 million, would likely rise much higher – worsening an already catastrophic situation.”
Adams, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who resides in Louisville, Ky., said that, in his opinion, Republican leaders who are vowing to repeal the new health law are not really aiming to do so.
“Despite their bluster, GOP lawmakers don’t really want to repeal the law because some of their chief financial backers, the health insurance companies, like its basic provisions,” he said. “The insurers especially like PPACA’s requirement that millions of people buy insurance from them and that at least $447 billion in federal subsidies will be coming their way over the next 10 years as part of this arrangement.
“We reject such political posturing at the expense of human suffering and human lives,” Adams said. “We call for a real, sustainable solution to our health care woes. PPACA should be superseded by a comprehensive health reform that provides quality, affordable care to everyone – single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for all.”