DGH Position Statement on Nationalized Health Care in the US

 

Call for the immediate establishment of a single-payer, universal health care system, similar to Medicare, that will provide all medically necessary care, including preventive care, to everyone living in the United States regardless or age or income.

 

Doctors for Global Health (DGH) is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit, volunteer, humanitarian organization dedicated to the promotion of health, education and other Human Rights in the United States, Central America and throughout the world. Officially incorporated in 1995, DGH was born from the experience and inspiration of Volunteers from the United States doing Health and Human Rights fieldwork in El Salvador.

Everyday, DGH members and volunteers witness the tragic inefficiency of the current United States health care system and the influence the U.S. has on international affairs. On both fronts, DGH believes it is imperative that the U.S. embrace what every other industrialized nation adopted years ago: providing access to health care to everyone living in the country. We therefore present the following resolution for the immediate adoption of single-payer, universal health care insurance in order to bring "the magic of averages to the rescue of millions."

WHEREAS, the United States signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Article 25); and

WHEREAS, on any given day, more than 40 million Americans live with the prospect of facing financial ruin in order to pay for their health care, or going without care altogether, and the number of uninsured in the United States continues to grow, now estimated at 45 million (Census Bureau, 2004); and

WHEREAS, the United States spends twice as much per capita on health care as any other industrialized country (13 percent of its GDP) and yet has the highest infant mortality rate, the lowest life expectancy and the most people uninsured of any industrialized country (World Health Organization, 2000); and

WHEREAS, thirty-one percent of the U.S. public thinks that the government should provide most health insurance, 25 percent thinks that nonprofit organizations should do so, and only 22 percent of the U.S. public wants the private sector to provide health insurance (Harris Interactive Health Care Poll, 2003); and

WHEREAS, the current U.S. system of providing health insurance through private insurance companies has proven inefficient and expensive: In 1998 Medicare spent about $3.2 billion, or 13.2 percent, more on health plan enrollees than if they had received services through traditional fee-for-service Medicare (General Accounting Office, Medicare+Choice: Payments Exceed Cost of Fee-for-Service Benefits, Adding Billions to Spending, August, 2000) ; and

WHEREAS, a recent study by Harvard University and the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that private insurance companies in the United States spend 11.7 cents of every health care dollar on administrative costs, mainly advertising and underwriting, compared with 3.6 cents for Medicare and 1.3 cents for CanadaÕs government-run system (New England Journal of Medicine, August 2003).

WHEREAS, the privatized health insurance system in the United States makes it almost impossible to control sky-rocketing health care costs: Between I970 and 1990, the share of national income spent on health care grew by more than half: from 7.3 percent of gross national product (GNP) in 1970 to 12.3 percent in 1990 (General Accounting Office report, Health Care Spending Control: The Experience of France, Germany, and Japan, November 15, 1991); and

WHEREAS, France, Germany and Japan each spends a significantly smaller share of their national income on health care than does the United States, yet the lower spending in these countries has not meant less access to basic health services or deterioration in broad measures of health status, such as life expectancy and infant mortality (General Accounting Office report, Health Care Spending Control: The Experience of France, Germany, and Japan, November 15, 1991); and

WHEREAS, if the Canadian system's key features—universal coverage, a single payer, and system-wide spending controls—were applied in the United States, the savings in administrative costs alone would be more than enough to finance insurance coverage for the millions of Americans who are uninsured (General Accounting Office report, Canadian Health Insurance: Lessons for the United States, June 4, 1991); and

WHEREAS, most Americans get their health care coverage through their employer, yet more and more employers are dropping or reducing their health benefits; and

WHEREAS, having health insurance be tied to employment causes terrible instability for most individuals, with nearly 60 million Americans lacking health insurance at some point in the year (Congressional Budget Office); and

WHEREAS, insurance premiums increased 15.5 percent in 2003 for companies with fewer than 200 employees and 13.2 percent for larger enterprises and because they are rated largely on the age and health experience ratings of their workers, businesses with a slightly older work force or a handful of employees with significant medical bills can see their rates soar 20 or 30 percent (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003); and

WHEREAS, health care costs now account for a far higher share of labor costs in the United States than in most other countries, putting companies here at a disadvantage competitively (The National Association of Manufacturers); and

WHEREAS, few small companies are ending health insurance benefits entirely but many are relying more on temporary workers and part timers, who do not necessarily get any insurance, or are outsourcing work to foreign countries (National Federation of Independent Business);

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:

THAT, Doctors for Global Health urges individuals to urge their Congressional representatives to sponsor a universal health care system, publicly administered and paid for by the government, with choice of any health care provider in the country, similar to Medicare;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, Doctors for Global Health asks that this single-payer, universal health care system fill in the gaps in the current Medicare coverage so that it be a more comprehensive system, including lower out-of-pocket costs, a catastrophic cap on out-of-pocket expenses, full prescription drug coverage, dental and vision care, and mental health parity.

ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY this day, August 2, 2004, at the Doctors for Global Health annual General Assembly, held in Atlanta, in the state of Georgia, United States of America.

In Health and Human Rights,

Doctors for Global Health Board of Directors

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