by Physicians for a National Health Program
On Feb. 14, a national physicians group hailed the reintroduction of a federal bill that would upgrade the Medicare program and swiftly expand it to cover the entire population. The “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” H.R. 676, introduced on Feb. 13 by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., with 44 other House members, would replace today’s welter of private health insurance companies with a single, streamlined public agency that would pay all medical claims, much like Medicare works for seniors today.
Proponents say a Medicare-for-all system, also known as a single-payer system, would vastly simplify how the nation pays for care, improve patient health, restore free choice of physician, eliminate copays and deductibles, and yield substantial savings for individuals, families and the national economy.
“The global evidence is very clear: single-payer financing systems are the most equitable and cost-effective way to assure that everyone, without exception, gets high-quality care,” said Dr. Robert Zarr, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit research and educational group of 19,000 doctors nationwide. “Medicare is a good model to build on, and what better way to observe Medicare’s 50th anniversary year than to improve and extend the program and its benefits to people of all ages?”
Zarr, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician, said: “An expanded and improved Medicare-for-all program would assure truly universal coverage, cover all necessary services, and knock down the growing financial barriers to care – high premiums, co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance – that our nation’s patients and their families are increasingly running up against, often with calamitous results.
“Such a plan would save over $400 billion a year currently wasted on private-insurance-related bureaucracy, paperwork and marketing. That’s enough money to provide first-dollar coverage for everyone in the country – without increasing U.S. health spending by a single penny.
“Such a program would also have the financial clout to negotiate with drug and medical equipment suppliers for lower prices, and would further save money through lump-sum budgeting for hospitals.
“In short,” Zarr said, “the enactment of Rep. Conyers’ bill would take us much further down the road to a humane, just and sustainable health care system than the 2010 health law, which, despite its modest benefits, will not be able to control costs and will still leave 31 million people uninsured in 2024, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Millions more will be inadequately insured, with skimpy coverage.” Zarr pointed out that the Census Bureau reports there were 5.9 million uninsured children in 2013.
“Surveys have repeatedly shown that about two-thirds of the public supports a Medicare-for-all approach,” he said, “and recent surveys show physician support is also strong and growing. Hundreds of labor, civic and faith-based organizations have endorsed this model of deep-going reform.
“As a doctor who sees the children of hard-pressed parents every day, I can tell you that the need for fundamental health care reform has never been greater,” he said. “It’s time to stop putting the interests of private insurance companies and Big Pharma over patient needs. It’s time to adopt a single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all program in the United States.”