By Jennifer Feals
Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, June 11, 2010
PORTSMOUTH — More than 100 business owners, health care professionals, patients and elected officials gathered Thursday to learn about a single-payer health care system, many stating their support.
Dr. Oliver Fein, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, presented “Everybody In, Nobody Out, One Group, One Plan, One Rate,” touting the need for a single-payer national system.
Fein referred to the system as “Medicare for all,” and said it would save $400 billion annually — enough to cover the nation’s 46 million uninsured — and addresses issues facing the health care system like access, choice and quality.
“If you look at the logic, it’s a no-brainer,” said Rich Holzen, of Kittery, Maine. “Yet, it has not been debated in public. People hear socialized medicine — that’s the bogeyman. But what was presented today clearly isn’t socialized medicine.”
PNHP is fighting the new health care law, which Fein said has good features but doesn’t do enough. While it offers expanded coverage, it is not universal, has no definition of benefits and is a handout to the private health insurance industry, he said.
“The legislation that passed really did not go far enough in terms of what we need and health care reform,” said Fein, professor of medicine and public heath at Weill Medical College at Cornell University.
The single-payer system would eliminate pre-existing conditions, co-payments and deductibles, and would cover all who need health insurance. It reduces costs, Fein said, by creating global budgets for hospitals, negotiated fees for providers, bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals and the elimination of billing departments and administrative waste.
In addition to meeting with the group Thursday afternoon, Fein met with members of the Portsmouth Rotary earlier in the day. On Thursday evening, Fein spoke to physicians and patients at Dartmouth Medical School and Concord Hospital.
Members of the public, like Holzen, asked how they can get involved to help change the current system. Fein said contacting congressional representatives will be important, in addition to inviting PNHP supporters and doctors to speak to local groups and organizations.
State Rep. Rich DiPentima, D-Portsmouth, said the public is ahead of policy makers in understanding what health care changes need to take place. But implementing that change, he said, is going to be “tricky.”
“Because you have the negative and misinformation about the single-payer system,” he said. “It’s going to be an education opportunity. We really have to educate the public.”
State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said she’s proud of the accomplishments of the new health care bill in that it gets coverage to those who don’t have it and ensures that patients who need coverage won’t be dropped.
But time will tell, she said, if elements of a single-payer program can be implemented into the system and how that would be done.
“This seems the right way to go, but the real question is how do we go about converting enough people and elected officials to put this in place,” she said.
Fuller Clark said the single-payer system is one she would support and work toward implementing, possibly even a combined effort between Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for a pilot program.