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President Obama Must Include Single-Payer Advocates In National Health Care Debate

Feb. 26, 2009

President Obama Must Include Single-Payer Advocates In National Health Care Debate

Statement of Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Director, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, and James Floyd, M.D., Researcher, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

This morning, President Obama announced he will create a $634 billion reserve fund over the next decade to provide a down payment for expanding health coverage. The announcement comes a week before a White House health care summit that marks the beginning of the first serious effort to reform health care since the Clinton task force in 1993.

The president wants this process to be open and transparent, with the goal of achieving universal coverage. However, groups representing physicians, nurses, and consumers who advocate for a single-payer system of national health insurance have thus far been excluded from the summit.

Under a single-payer system, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers are paid from a single fund administered by the government. The system would eliminate the wasteful spending and high administrative costs of private insurance, saving almost $400 billion annually. This savings is enough to provide every American with the same high-quality care, including those who currently have insurance but still cannot afford medications and treatment.

If health care is a key to fixing our national deficit and providing the economic stimulus that we need to recover from this recession, it is unacceptable to ignore the only system that will provide true universal coverage. If the only people who have input on health care reform are the lobbyists who represent the interests of insurance and drug companies, the final result will be a system that benefits the insurance and drug companies.

The Clinton task force on health reform made a similar mistake of excluding the voices of those who support a single-payer system, and the result was a complicated, inadequate reform proposal that catered to the interests of insurance companies and failed to garner public support. At a time when public support for single-payer is greater than ever – more than 60 percent in recent polls – we urge President Obama not to make the same mistake. He must include single-payer advocates in the health care summit next week.