Physicians Call for Universal Health Plan

September 16, 2003

On August 12, thousands of doctors, including practitioners from every state and every field of medicine, hundreds of professors and deans from medical schools and 2 former U.S. Surgeon Generals, declared their support for a National Health Insurance Plan which would provide comprehensive medical coverage for every American.

The plan, outlined in an article and signed by 7,782 doctors in the August 13 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was announced in press conferences in several cities, including Washington, D.C. It calls for a single-payer, government-administered system which would guarantee health insurance for everyone.

All medically necessary services, including long-term care, prescription drugs, mental health and dental care, would be covered. The plan would save an estimated $200 billion/year by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the current system dominated by for-profit insurance companies and HMOs. This savings would be used to cover the more than 40 million uninsured and to extend coverage.

The plan points out that while the U.S. health care system is rich in resources and spends more than twice as much on health care as the average of other developed countries, more than 40 million Americans are uninsured. Such basic health care services as prenatal care and immunizations are denied to millions of people and the U.S. "trails most of the developed countries in such indicators as infant mortality and life expectancy."

The physicians report indicts the "market-driven system" as the cause of these problems, emphasizing that "the U.S. alone treats health care as a commodity distributed according to the ability to pay, rather than as a social service to be distributed according to medical need."

The report calls for "a fundamental change" shaped by a vision which includes:

"1. Access to comprehensive health care is a human right. It is the responsibility of society, through the government, to ensure this right. Coverage should not be tied to employment.

2. The right to choose and change one's physician is fundamental to patient autonomy. Patients must be free to seek care from any licensed health care professional.

3. Pursuit of corporate profit and personal fortune have no place in caregiving. They create waste and too often warp clinical decision making.

4. In a democracy, the public should set health policies and budgets. Personal medical decisions must be made by patients with their caregivers, not by corporate or government bureaucrats."