Sept. 8, 2011
Dear PNHP colleagues,
While the state of the U.S. economy understandably continues to dominate the news, the festering health care crisis is not far below the surface. And the compelling merits of single-payer health reform are bubbling up again in public discourse – including in newspaper editorials and in Congress.
What follows is a heads-up on an opportunity for adding your voice to this national discussion, a few highlights of recent media coverage of single payer, and news of two PNHP leaders’ upcoming appearances on Capitol Hill.
1. Next Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau will announce its findings on the number of uninsured persons in the United States in 2010. That figure – which is part of the bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage – was 50.7 million in 2009, reflecting a record one-year increase of 4.3 million people.
Because of continuing job losses, companies dropping employee health insurance benefits, families going without coverage due to high costs, and the paring back of state Medicaid rolls, it’s likely the 2010 figure will be even higher.
Such predictions are always risky, of course. But one thing is certain: the problem of tens of millions of people who lack coverage will not go away anytime soon, even with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (assuming it survives legal challenge).
Nor will the pervasive problem of inadequate or shoddy coverage, what Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow at PNHP, calls the “new norm” of “unaffordable underinsurance,” go away until our nation adopts a single-payer system.
We urge you to be alert for the Census Bureau announcement and, when the new numbers are released, to write an opinion piece or a letter to the editor citing the those figures and making the case for single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for all.
In addition, on Tuesday or Wednesday we’ll be releasing a PNHP statement on the Census Bureau report and providing a state-by-state breakout of the uninsured numbers – a state-specific figure that can serve as a news peg for your local media.
To help you in your efforts, we can offer a new, up-to-date PNHP fact sheet on the health care crisis and the case for an improved Medicare for all, along with some tips on how to write an op-ed or letter.
2. A recent letter to The New York Times on single payer from Dr. Samuel Metz of Portland, Ore., provoked an extraordinary response.
Dr. Metz wrote in part: “Health care reform could provide better care at less cost by replacing individual mandates with a single-payer national health care plan financed by taxes. Congress’s power to mandate purchase of private products sold at a profit is disputable, but Congress’s power to tax is not.”
The Times decided to showcase the letter and made a special appeal for reader responses. The result, according to a reliable source, was about 500 letters in support of Dr. Metz’s letter, and only 2 that were opposed – one of which was anonymous! The Times ended up printing 8 “for,” 1 “against.”
3. In recent weeks, at least five newspapers – the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Kansas City Star, the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette and the Cape Cod Times – have published editorials describing the merits (and undisputed constitutionality) of a single-payer plan, with several citing PNHP’s research. Columnists like John Nichols of The Nation and economist Robert Reich have also upped their writing about an-improved-Medicare-for-all approach.
4. As yet another sign of the growing interest in single payer, two PNHP leaders have been invited to speak on Capitol Hill next week. On Tuesday, I am scheduled to testify before a subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on “poverty and health care access,” and on Wednesday, PNHP co-founder Dr. Steffie Woolhandler has been invited to meet with several members of Congress and to deliver a congressional staff briefing on “Single Payer 101 and Cost Control.”
5. Finally, we’d like to draw your attention to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, showing that medical schools offer subpar private health insurance coverage to their students for mental health and substance abuse treatment, thereby imperiling doctors-in-training and their future patients.
The authors, including PNHP board member Dr. Rachel Nardin and PNHP member Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, told reporters that their findings are yet another reason for adopting a single-payer system. The study was covered by Medscape, WBUR’s CommonHealth blog, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
Garrett Adams, M.D., M.P.H.