During the health reform process of 2009-10 that culminated with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, I served voluntarily as a Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) to advocate for a national improved Medicare for All health system. As traditional Medicare has done for more than 50 years, an improved Medicare for All, or single-payer, health system would improve health outcomes, lift people out of poverty, and control health care costs. Single-payer systems have been used effectively for certain populations in the United States and all over the world.
Six years later, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has produced the results that PNHP members predicted: tens of millions of people remain without health insurance, nearly 40 million people in the United States have insurance but still can’t afford necessary health care, and private insurers continue to raise the price of premiums while restricting access to care through narrower and narrower provider networks. The United States is the only industrialized nation that treats health care as a commodity rather than a human right. Our 40-year experiment with a market-based health care system has failed. It is time to end it.
Today, Physicians for a National Health Program released “Beyond the Affordable Care Act: A Physicians’ Proposal for Single Payer Health Care Reform.” The proposal was crafted by 39 physicians and signed by more than 2,000 physicians and medical students. I am one of the physician signers.
A national health program is the remedy for the ills of the ACA. When it is enacted, an improved Medicare for All system will immediately cover everyone living in the United States. It will remove financial barriers to care such as health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments, thereby eliminating under-insurance. And it will allow free choice of health provider instead of restricting patients to narrow networks.
Currently 64% of all health care spending in the United States comes from tax dollars, but we are wasting $500 billion of that on unnecessary administration. An improved Medicare for All system will streamline administration so that it is simpler for patients and health professionals. And it will empower patients and health professionals to make health decisions based on what is best for the patient, not what is best for the insurance CEO’s pocketbook.
I left pediatric practice in 2007 to advocate for an improved Medicare for All health system partly because I saw the harm that our current system causes for patients and partly because I saw my colleagues, often very talented doctors, leave clinical practice in frustration.
Since 2003, there has been a model single payer health bill introduced in each new Congress in the House. It is HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. As your Senator, I will introduce a companion bill to that in the Senate, and I will work hard to build support for it in both the House and Senate. I believe that the United States can have one of the best health care systems in the world instead of the poor ranking that we have right now. And I will do all that I can to make that a reality.