Doc group: Single payer only hope for low-cost universal health coverage

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Rising healthcare expenses for insured patients and the large number of uninsured people who remain uncovered even after passage of the Affordable Care Act make a strong case for a single-payer, universal healthcare plan, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit research and education organization of more than 20,000 doctors.

Citing reports from the U.S. Census Bureau indicating 29 million individuals remained uninsured five years after the ACA’s passage, PNHP President Robert Zarr, M.D., urges policymakers to look in a new direction. In an announcement published on the PNHP’s website, Zarr declares the country’s “inefficient, private-insurance-based system of financing care is fundamentally incapable of providing universal coverage.”

While the ACA has made a welcome dent in the overall number of uninsured, down 41 percent from around 49 million people in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t foresee further movement in that figure over the next 10 years. Even additional Medicaid expansion, which has been shown to drive drops in the number of uninsured patients, likely wouldn’t be enough to move the needle even if all states were to opt into the agreement, according to the announcement.

Under the current system, becoming insured doesn’t necessarily guarantee cost-efficient, quality care, Zarr says. He points to rising deductibles, copays and coinsurance rates, as well as narrow networks, all of which can hamper access to care even among the insured. He also sees the recent withdrawals of Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and other insurers from ACA marketplaces, along with highly publicized price hikes by large pharmaceutical corporations, as evidence that corporate interests do not readily align with those of providers and patients.

Given all of this, Zarr sees a single-payer system as the last viable remaining option. “Only a nonprofit, single-payer healthcare program will cut out the huge bureaucratic waste in our system, freeing up the funds to provide everyone with quality coverage,” he says.