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Physicians Push for National Insurance

Published Online: Wednesday, October 1, 2003   [ Request Print ]

    A group of 7782 US physicians are calling for government-financed national health insurance, which they claim would cover every American while saving billions of dollars. The group is led by Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and former Surgeons General Julius Richmond and David Satcher.

    Ten years after President Clinton?s national health plan died in Congress, the physicians argue that private-sector solutions have failed. The group claims that work in Congress to enact a prescription drug benefit for the elderly and disabled would allocate more government money to private companies while offering little value to consumers. Instead, the physicians would establish a single-payer system?essentially an upgraded and expanded version of Medicare.

    ?HMOs, launched as health care?s bright hope, have raised Medicare costs by billions and fallen to the basement of public esteem. Investor-owned hospital chains, born of the promise of efficiency, have been wracked by scandal,? wrote the physicians in their proposal published in the August 6, 2003, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    ?The American Medical Association [AMA], however, remains opposed to a single-payer health care system,? said Donald Palmisano, MD, AMA?s president, in a statement. ?The United States would be trading one problem for a whole set of others,? he said. ?Long waits for health care services, a slowness to adopt new technologies and maintain facilities, and development of a large bureaucracy that can cause a decline in the authority of patients and their physicians over clinical decision-making are all hallmarks of a the single payer system.?

    The American Association of Health Plans, the lobbying arm of the managed care industry, also said it opposes the doctors? proposal, which would eliminate for-profit hospitals and HMOs.

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