News Release

Movement on Health Care Reform?


Himmelstein and Woolhandler are professors of medicine at Harvard University and the co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program. Woolhandler said today: “Grassroots, single-payer activists successfully pushed the Democratic Party Platform Committee to propose ‘guaranteed health care for all.’ This is a huge improvement from their previous language that merely endorsed ‘universal coverage,’ which is often a euphemism for the right to purchase private health insurance. We know from past state experiments that this right is meaningless. As we’re now seeing in Massachusetts, private coverage comes with such burdensome restrictions, co-payments and deductibles that patients still can’t afford the care they need. We need to continue to push for non-profit, tax-funded national health insurance.”

Himmelstein and Woolhandler are two of the co-authors of the just-released article titled “State Heath Reform Flatlines,” published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Health Services, which examines the experiences of earlier reforms in Massachusetts, Oregon, Minnesota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington state and Maine.

Said Himmelstein: “All seven reforms, which when launched were widely trumpeted by political leaders and leading newspapers as breakthroughs in providing universal health care, were based on the expansion of private insurance coverage. But in each case the plan had little impact on the state’s number of uninsured persons and produced no sustained improvements in delivering care.

“Politicians like to claim they’ve passed bold health reforms, but they’re afraid to rock the private insurance boat. So they keep pushing gussied-up versions of reforms that have failed time after time. Our health care system is sick to death, and our politicians keep prescribing placebos.”
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Day, the third co-author of the report and executive director of Mass-Care, a health care advocacy coalition based in Boston, said today: “It’s easy to build political consensus for expanded health coverage. But experience shows that you can’t achieve universal coverage at an affordable price unless you throw out the insurance companies with their massive overhead and profit, and replace them with a more efficient single-payer national health insurance program.

“Sen. Obama should learn this lesson,” Day said. As for Sen. John McCain’s health care proposals, “they are so obviously unworkable that it’s hard to take them seriously.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167