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Obama’s Health Care Reform Policy Is the Wrong Prescription, Say President’s Former Physician and Public Health Groups

July 30, 2009

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 Care Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the 44th anniversary of Medicare’s creation, President Barack Obama’s former primary care physician joins 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, M.D., served as President Obama’s doctor at a clinic based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood from 1987 to 2009. A strong Obama supporter, Dr. 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. We must not give in to the insurance and drug companies and instead do what is right for all Americans,” he said urging the president and Congress to adopt a single-payer system.

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, Dr. 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,” Dr. 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 Dr. 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 coverage.”

Added Dr. Sidney Wolfe, M.D., 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 treatment.

“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, M.D., 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.

For more information, go to www.citizen.org/singlepayersolution, http://www.pnhp.org or http://www.healthcare-now.org.