House bill would expand Medicare to all

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and other House members have reintroduced a federal bill that would expand Medicare to a universal, single-payer program, the Detroit Free Press reported.

However, the bill, which has been introduced each Congress since 2003, has little chance of winning approval, the article noted.

The "expanded and improved Medicare" program would pay hospitals and providers a monthly lump-sum under a global budget to cover all operating expenses, according to the bill. It also would require for-profit hospitals to convert to nonprofit entities, a move that could spark controversy.

However, a group of 18,000 physicians are praising the "Medicare-for-all" legislation as a solution to ever-growing healthcare costs.

"Such a plan would save over $400 billion a year currently wasted on private-insurance-related bureaucracy, paperwork and marketing--money that should be used to care for patients," internist and Physicians for a National Health Program President Andrew Coates said yesterday in a statement.

The nonprofit research and educational doctor organization also pointed to surveys showing a solid majority of physicians, as well two-thirds of the general public, favor a Medicare-for-all approach.

The proposal to expand and improve Medicare follows a warning from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), The Hill's Healthwatch reported. Medicare could face a national crisis unless lawmakers overhaul the formula used to pay doctors, MedPAC Chief Glenn Hackbarth said.

Just last week, the House introduced bipartisan legislation that called for a permanent fix to yearly automatic Medicare cuts and would permanently repeal the SGR.

For more:
- read the Detroit Free Press article
- here's the bill (.pdf)
- read the PNPH statement
- read the Hill's Healthwatch article