By Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action

The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676, was introduced last night by Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Michigan).

With 51 other House members as co-sponsors, the single payer bill would replace Obamneycare’s welter of private health insurance companies with a single, streamlined public agency that would pay all medical claims, much like traditional Medicare works for seniors today.

Single payer would vastly simplify how the nation pays for care, saving hundreds of billions of dollars on administrative overhead that could be used to improve patient health, restore free choice of physician, and eliminate co-pays and deductibles.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. spends more than 17% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare, while countries with single-payer systems like France, Germany, Canada, the UK, and Australia spend 9-11% of GDP.

Conyers said that “in addition to paying a fraction of what we do for healthcare, those countries enjoy better outcomes and higher satisfaction than in the United States.”

“Single-payer isn’t just the moral thing to do or a good government issue, it’s what Americans want,” Conyers said. “Many leading health care practitioners and experts share my belief and that of most Americans that establishing a non-profit universal health care system would be the best way to effectively contain health care costs and provide quality care for all Americans. I look forward to my colleagues joining me in supporting a universal, single-payer health care system.”

“International experience shows that single-payer financing systems, like the one described in Congressman Conyers’ bill, are the fairest and most cost-effective way to assure that everyone gets high-quality care,” said Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit research and educational group of 20,000 doctors nationwide.

“The Affordable Care Act, despite its modest achievements, has shown itself incapable of providing universal health care,” Paris said. “With nearly 30 million Americans still uninsured, and tens of millions who are underinsured, the doors to health care remain shut to many in need.”

“The status quo is unacceptable and the ideas pushed by the Republican majority in Congress, which are based on even more privatization and patient cost-sharing, would only exacerbate our problems and lead to an additional tens of thousands of unnecessary, preventable deaths.”

Paris, a Nashville, Tenn.-based psychiatrist, said that “an expanded and improved-Medicare-for-All program would assure truly universal coverage, cover all medically necessary services, including dental, vision and long-term care, and would remove the growing financial barriers to care – high premiums, copays, deductibles and coinsurance – that our patients and their families are increasingly facing, often with tragic results.”

“In addition to the enormous administrative savings from a single payer, such a program would also have the financial clout to negotiate with drug and medical equipment suppliers for lower prices. And doctors would have more time to spend with their patients, instead of dealing with mountains of paperwork and haggling with insurers. The key step is removing the private health insurers from the picture.

“Recent Kaiser and Gallup surveys have shown that nearly 6 in 10 Americans, 58 percent, support a Medicare-for-all approach, with the Gallup poll finding that 41 percent of Republicans favor replacing the ACA with ‘a federally funded health care program providing insurance for all Americans,’” she said. “And surveys show physician support is also strong and growing. Hundreds of labor, civic and faith-based organizations have endorsed this model of deep-going reform.

“The time for fundamental health care reform is now,” Paris said. “No more tweaking. No more incrementalism. No more ‘political feasibility’ arguments. It’s time for Congress to stop putting the interests of private insurance and Big Pharma over constituent needs. It’s time to make H.R. 676, Improved Medicare for All, the law of the land.”

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