Society of General Internal Medicine recommends U.S. implement universal health coverage, a sign of the medical profession’s growing support for Medicare-for-All reform
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) today applauded the Society of General Internal Medicine’s (SGIM) endorsement of Medicare-for-All reform. SGIM is an internal medical association representing more than 3,300 of the world’s leading academic general internists, including educators, researchers, and clinicians. It announced today that it has endorsed the policy position of the American College of Physicians (ACP), which recommended that “the United States transition to a system that achieves universal coverage with essential benefits and lower administrative costs …”
Dr. Oliver Fein, Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, pointed out that SGIM members in the organization’s Social Responsibility and Single-Payer Interest Groups have pushed for the organization to back single-payer reform for more than two decades. SGIM’s endorsement follows a year of rapid movement among physicians towards Medicare for All. In August 2019 — after months of pressure from single-payer supporters, including a march and rally at their annual meeting — the American Medical Association resigned from the “Partnership for America’s Health Care Future,” an industry front group formed to fight coverage expansions like Medicare for All and even lesser reforms like a public option. A few months later, the American College of Radiology, a medical society representing nearly 40,000 radiologists, oncologists, and nuclear medicine physicians, also cut ties with the “Partnership.”
In January 2020, the American College of Physicians (ACP) announced its endorsement of Medicare for All, along with a “universal public choice” reform model. The ACP represents 159,000 internists, making it the largest medical specialty society and second-largest physician group in the U.S. after the American Medical Association. Immediately following the ACP endorsement, more than 2,000 physicians signed an open letter “prescribing” Medicare for All, which ran as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times. Among the “prescribers” were prominent figures in American medicine, including Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine; Dr. Bernard Lown, developer of the defibrillator; Dr. Paul Farmer, infectious disease expert and founder of Partners in Health; and Dr. Mary Bassett, former New York City Health Commissioner.
Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, who in the late 1980s founded the nation’s leading single-payer physicians group, Physicians for a National Health Program, called the recent policy endorsements a “sea change for the medical profession,” noting that recent surveys found half of all doctors now favor national health insurance.
Dr. Fein, who is a member of SGIM as well as a board member and past-president of PNHP, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for Medicare for All even more urgent, as millions of Americans lose both their jobs and their health coverage. “Health care providers can no longer stand in silence while our health system puts profits ahead of patients and public health,” he said. “Single-payer Medicare for All is the only way to guarantee lifelong health coverage, eliminate financial barriers to care, and finally allow health care professionals to focus on what matters most — caring for patients.”
PNHP is a nonprofit research and education organization whose more than 23,000 members support single-payer Medicare for All reform.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
The prestigious Society of General Internal Medicine has joined the American College of Physicians and a majority of the nation’s physicians in recommending that “the United States transition to a system that achieves universal coverage with essential benefits and lower administrative costs …” The predominant model that would achieve that is single payer Medicare for All, though ACP would consider a “public choice” model that meets these same requirements. The important point is that there is broad agreement that it really is time to fix our system.
With the crises we are facing, not just the physicians but the entire nation should be ready to support an affordable, more efficient health care system that provides essential health care benefits for absolutely everyone. Yes, there are those who say they reject proposals that involve the government, but they do nevertheless accept Medicare and Social Security benefits, so their objections are merely irrational memes without substance. If they already had Medicare for All, they would be just as protective of it as they are of their current Medicare and Social Security.
It’s time. Let’s do it.
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