On Thursday, more than 2,000 doctors nationwide published an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health calling for a single-payer healthcare system, a system that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has long called for.
The Affordable Care Act, they say, is not the answer and in fact could do more harm than good for those who need medical care the most. Sanders has long said that the ACA does not go far enough in helping people access healthcare, and thousands of doctors seem to agree.
The editorial criticized the possible abuses of the ACA by insurance companies in the future if the country does not change its attitude on healthcare.
“…down this road, millions of Americans remain uninsured, underinsurance grows, costs rise, and inefficiency and the search for profits are abetted.”
According to the Washington Post, South Bronx internist David Himmelstein discussed the effects of the ACA with other doctors who agreed the law didn’t go far enough in helping people get the healthcare they need.
“Those discussions led us to feel that we needed to put out in the public, first of all, a clear statement that problems haven’t been solved.”
Previously, Inquisitr reported that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wanted to change a critical part of the ACA so people with pre-existing conditions would be put into a separate insurance pool that would help defer the costs for healthier individuals. That move would strip current protections under the ACA that no health insurer can deny a patient care based on pre-existing conditions. It is also one of the reasons why the country needs Bernie Sanders — to protect access to healthcare.
The editorial cites a Congressional Budget Office report that indicates 27 million people will remains uninsured 10 years from now under the current incarnation of the ACA.
“Many more are are underinsured or constrained by ‘narrow networks’ of providers that limit choice and rupture longstanding therapeutic relationships. Doctors and nurses contend with growing requirements for mind-numbing electronic documentation i a health care marketplace increasingly tilted toward giant insurers and hospital conglomerates that amass power through consolidation.”
For naysayers who wonder how the government would pay for a single-payer system as Sanders has called for, the group of doctors noted that the U.S. government already pays for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the country, and a single-payer system would slash administrative costs, getting rid of overspending and bloated prices.
But what about the health insurance industry? Nearly half a million workers are employed in it, and could stand to lose their jobs, right?
Although Himmelstein suggests that “we would have to abolish the insurance companies,” that will likely not be the case. A quick look at countries with established single-payer systems shows that many — such as Canada and Ireland — offer private options. And those who can afford it purchase private insurance as an added measure. So, the argument that if Sanders is elected, he would destroy the health insurance industry by implementing single payer is simply not true. It will continue to thrive, albeit as a private, additional option to a national healthcare program.
Himmelstein and three colleagues who helped author the editorial point to another piece they wrote 10 years ago. In the 2006 article, they cite how a single-payer system is good for business in that companies would no longer be required to provide health insurance as part of a compensation package.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, one of the founders of Physicians for a National Health Program and co-author of the AJPH editorial, predicted in 2010 that the ACA would not go far enough to provide access to those who need it. In an interview with Managed Care magazine, she compared the ACA as providing an aspirin to a patient with cancer.
“[It’s like debating whether to] give a cancer patient Tylenol or aspirin when the person needs a surgeon. It might relieve the pain, but it is not solving the problem.”
Bernie Sanders must have been listening to Woolhandler discuss a single-payer system as a “Medicare for all” six years ago because, as she noted, it resonates better with the public than the words “single payer.” Woolhandler pointed out that the insurance industry poured millions of dollars into the healthcare reform debate. That money, she said, “amplified” the voices on the center and the right, drowning out the single payer argument.
“Nevertheless, if you ask the American people if they support the idea of Medicare for all, using those words instead of ‘single payer,’ that still polls extremely well.”
According to the Guardian, the doctors say Sanders has been beneficial to bringing the single payer discussion to the table. Himmelstein and his co-authors credited Sanders with helping make the possibility of it more appealing to voters.
“Bernie Sanders showed you can do extraordinarily well campaigning on this issue.”
With Sanders poised to perform well in upcoming May primary races, the notion of a single-payer “Medicare for all” healthcare system is proving to be a popular platform among voters. And it is one that the insurance companies and the U.S. government may not be able to ignore for much longer.
[Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images]