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Statement of Margaret Flowers, M.D., of Physicians for a National Health Program

July 30, 2009

Statement of Margaret Flowers, M.D., of Physicians for a National Health Program

I am here today, the 44th anniversary of Medicare, on behalf of Physicians for a National Health Program, a national organization representing over 16,000 physicians who advocate for the only health reform that can provide truly universal, comprehensive and affordable care: single-payer national health insurance, expanded and improved Medicare for all.

We are presenting an open letter to President Obama which has been signed by over 3,500 physicians from across the nation and across the spectrum of our profession. Signers include Drs. Marcia Angell and Arnold Relman, former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine and Dr. David Scheiner, President Obama’s personal physician for more than two decades. It has also been signed by medical students who represent the future of medicine in the United States.

We are calling on the president to endorse national single-payer health care. Sound 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. These savings on bureaucracy – nearly $400 billion annually – are sufficient to cover all of the uninsured and to provide first-dollar coverage for all Americans.

We agree with the president that our nation’s economic recovery depends on effective health care reform. However, it will not be achieved by mandating that individuals and families hand over even more money to the private, for-profit insurance industry. A plan similar to that being proposed by Congress was put in place recently in Massachusetts. This plan, largely written with input from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, is already proving to be financially unsustainable. In addition, the Massachusetts plan is dropping 30,000 people from its rolls and is being sued by Boston Medical Center for $180 million for uncompensated care.

We ask why the president is not endorsing a national single-payer system, which is the only reform with inherent cost-controls in the form of global budgeting for hospitals, bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices and decreased administrative costs, to name a few.

We also agree with a recent statement by the president that a single-payer national health system is the only way to provide health care to all people in America – everybody in and nobody out. If the proposed health reform is not going to be universal, we would ask which of our patients do you suggest we leave out?

The simplest and least disruptive solution for our nation, and one that will preserve the legacy of Medicare for generations to come, is to expand and improve our uniquely American and very successful Medicare to everyone. Surveys done this year demonstrate that people with Medicare are more satisfied with their health care than are persons under age 65 who are covered by private insurance. People with Medicare report fewer problems getting access to care, greater confidence about their access and fewer instances of financial hardship as a result of medical bills. Patients on Medicare choose their doctor and treatment without the restrictions and denials inherent in private insurance. When they need care, they receive it simply and with less worry.

That is why we, the members of Physicians for a National Health Program, celebrate Medicare’s anniversary and why we wish it many more.