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Doctors call for single-payer healthcare to improve on Obamacare

They say the proposal is not motivated by politics, but rather by the potential to save more than $500 billion per year and provide all people the care they need.

By
Stephen Feller
A group of more than 2,000 doctors suggests the best way to improve the healthcare system is to create a single-payer system they say would reduce overall costs by at least $500 billion per year. Photo by designer491/Shutterstock
A group of more than 2,000 doctors suggests the best way to improve the healthcare system is to create a single-payer system they say would reduce overall costs by at least $500 billion per year. Photo by designer491/Shutterstock

CHICAGO, May 6 (UPI) -- More than 2,000 doctors are calling for the establishment of a single-payer health insurance system, signing on to a plan they say would take healthcare non-profit and allow care to be available for everybody who needs it.

The Physicians for a National Health Program on Thursday released their plan to move to a Medicare-style system open to all American citizens, outlining it in an editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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The doctors make the case that a streamlined program eliminating profit motives, as well as the high premiums and deductibles that keep consumers from utilizing the care they need, would save lives immediately and a lot of money over time.

Single-payer health insurance -- a program funded with tax dollars making health care available to anybody who needs it -- has been debated for nearly 100 years. In the last 20 years, the country has been nudged toward such a system, starting with President Bill Clinton's failed 1993 proposal for a Medicare-for-all-style single-payer system.

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In 2008, President Barack Obama included single-payer in his election platform, eventually signing the Affordable Care Act in 2010. While that law did not establish single-payer, it instituted reforms similar to those established in Massachusetts in 2006 by then-Governor Mitt Romney -- including basic regulations and consumer protection for plans, a regulated exchange for individuals to buy plans more easily and assistance to help offset the cost of policies.

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The PNHP says in its proposal the healthcare system continues to waste huge amounts of money and block out people who need care based on cost, and that the only solution is a move to single-payer.

"We can no longer afford to waste the vast resources we do on the administrative costs, executive salaries and profiteering of the private insurance system," Dr. Marcia Angell, a professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the proposal, said in a press release. "We get too little for our money. It's time to put those resources into real health care for everyone."

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The full proposal, published on the Physicians for A National Health Program website, written by a 39-member working group and signed so far by 2,280 doctors and 168 medical students, outlines a plan to replace the ACA with a publicly financed National Health Program to "fully cover medical care for all Americans, while lowering costs by eliminating the profit-driven private insurance industry with its massive overhead."

The plan would make hospitals, nursing homes and other providers non-profit, with each paid global operating budgets instead of fees for each service, while doctors would be paid based on fee-for-service and making more money for better care of patients, if not out of other global budgets.

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Although there would be initial increases in costs for the government, the working group expects premiums and out-of-pocket costs -- single payer is publicly funded, but is not completely free for consumers -- would slow the growth of medical costs and even out over time.

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While hospitals, clinics and facilities would remain privately-owned under the plan, an NHP budget would be expected to cover all costs. Patients would be permitted to go to any doctor or hospital they want, because there would be no network of providers to consider, the PNHP said.

Although co-pays and deductibles would be eliminated, and new taxes would be offset by drops in premiums and other costs, the program is expected to save about $500 billion annually when compared to the current healthcare system.

"Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act six years ago, 30 million Americans remain uninsured, an even greater number are underinsured, financial barriers to care like co-pays and deductibles are rising, bureaucracy is growing, provider networks are narrowing, and medical costs are continuing to climb," said Dr. Adam Gaffney, co-chair of the working group. "Caring relationships are increasingly taking a back seat to the financial prerogatives of insurance firms, corporate providers, and Big Pharma. Our patients are suffering and our profession is being degraded and disfigured by these mercenary interests."

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