As the attorney who filed the amicus brief on behalf of Single Payer Action, It’s Our Economy, and Fifty Medical Doctors Who Support Single Payer, all of which opposed the individual mandate but otherwise supported the Affordable Care Act, I agree with Wendell Potter that it’s time for progressives to bury the hatchet [“No Time for Infighting,” July 30/Aug. 6].
I invite Potter and other progressives supporting the ACA to join those who never wavered in supporting what we all know is the only solution to the healthcare crisis—single-payer, aka Medicare for All. I hope Potter will blow the whistle on the individual mandate, which he, more than anyone else, must recognize as a deal with the devil.
If Potter won’t bury the hatchet by embracing single-payer, he should at least rescind his demand that single-payer advocates support a law entrenching the same for-profit health insurers he now renounces after a lucrative career as their PR man. Otherwise, he’s just perpetuating the same old misinformation.
New York City
Wendell Potter’s insightful critique of his former bosses in big health insurance was marred by his reprimand of his newfound friends in Physicians for a National Health Program and the rest of the single-payer movement for failing to adopt the political style of his erstwhile employer.
Potter incorrectly implies that PNHP urged a no vote on President Obama’s health reform by the Supreme Court. Some PNHP members condemned the ACA for boosting private insurers’ financial (and future political) power with a trillion-dollar infusion of public subsidies and mandated premiums. Others welcomed its expansion of Medicaid. All agreed that the reform would leave at least 26 million Americans uninsured and most others underinsured; that it would accelerate the corporate takeover of medicine and increase costs; and that single-payer reform remains an urgent necessity.
Potter derides PNHP as a group of strategy-less “die-hards” too “furious at the president and the Democrats” to vote in November or pursue rational alliances. How odd to see a group of 18,000 doctors—including a number of Republicans, conservatives and libertarians—caricatured as ultra-leftists! His call for diluting the single-payer message in defense of Obama’s reform mistakes the nature of the group and its role in society. Physicians are neither politicians nor corporate lobbyists. On health policy, as in our consultations with patients, we’re ethically bound to tell the truth, not a tale we only wish were true. Aspirin may ease the pain of cancer, but it must not be portrayed as a cure.
In Massachusetts, five years into Obama/Romney reform, access to care has barely budged, medical bankruptcy is common and costs continue to spiral. Having lived with such reform, doctors in the state favor single-payer over it by two to one, according to a recent Massachusetts Medical Society survey.
Love it or not, Obamacare is the new status quo. Private insurers—whose paperwork and profits siphon off nearly one-third of healthcare dollars—are still in charge. We and our PNHP colleagues remain determined to replace them with a humane, publicly controlled single-payer system. We invite others to join us.
STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, MD, MPH
DAVID U. HIMMELSTEIN, MD, founders,
Physicians for a National Health Program
Our country owes Drs. Woolhandler and Himmelstein an enormous debt of gratitude for their untiring efforts over many years to see our uniquely dysfunctional and inefficient multipayer system of private insurance companies replaced with a more rational single-payer one.