Doctors say Rep. Jayapal’s single-payer House bill is the only way to achieve universal, comprehensive coverage while saving the nation billions in health costs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonprofit research and education organization whose 23,000 members support single-payer national health insurance, endorses the Medicare for All Act of 2019, filed today by its lead sponsor Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wa.) along with more than 100 co-sponsors.
“Accept no substitutes — only single-payer, Medicare for All can fix the grave dysfunctions and injustices of the American health care system,” said Dr. Adam Gaffney, PNHP’s president and a critical care physician and faculty member at Harvard Medical School. “Congress shouldn’t be distracted with incremental plans like a Medicare buy-in or public option. The only way to achieve universal and comprehensive coverage is to eliminate the profits and waste of the private insurance industry, which drains hundreds of billions of dollars from our health care system each year.”
The Medicare for All Act would improve Medicare by providing comprehensive, first-dollar health benefits inclusive of dental, vision, hearing, mental health, and long-term care, as well as the full spectrum of women’s reproductive health care. It would then expand Medicare to cover everyone living in the U.S., regardless of age, income, or employment. Coverage would be lifelong, portable, and seamless; services would be covered free at the point of service without copays or premiums, which serve only to keep patients from the care they need.
Experts predict that single-payer Medicare for All would would save more than $600 billion annually by slashing the administrative waste of private insurance and the paperwork insurers impose on hospitals and doctors ($504 billion) and bargaining down drug prices ($155 billion). These efficiencies would free up enough money for universal, first-dollar coverage without any overall increase in U.S. health spending, while controlling its growth over time.
Currently, the U.S. spends $3.65 trillion per year on health care, double the per-capita spending of other industrialized nations that provide universal coverage. Without single-payer reform, U.S. health spending is projected to reach $5.96 trillion — 19.4 percent of GDP — by 2027.
“Even single-payer opponents admit that, compared to Medicare for All, the status quo will cost U.S. $2 trillion more over the next decade,” said Dr. Claudia Fegan, a Chicago-based internal medicine physician and PNHP national coordinator. “How do they propose we pay for that?”
Dr. Fegan added that although the Affordable Care Act — which relies on a system of private and employer-provided insurance — expanded coverage to many, it failed to reduce the proportion of bankruptcies driven by medical problems, while doing little to expand the health security of all Americans.
While endorsing the Medicare for All Act as a strong single-payer bill, PNHP notes an area for improvement: Since for-profit providers (including hospitals, dialysis centers, nursing homes, home care agencies, and hospices) have been shown to provide inferior care at inflated prices, PNHP recommends moving to a fully nonprofit health system in addition to the bill’s current constraints on profit-making. To achieve an orderly transition of for-profit providers to nonprofit status, the doctors’ group recommends a bond-funded buyout of investor-owned facilities.
Dr. Gaffney welcomed this moment as a key step forward in the movement towards a sustainable, just health care system for the nation. “The system is failing both physicians and patients,” he said. “We can do better. In fact, we have to: The health and future of our nation hangs in the balance.”