Saratoga County

Students call for national health care plan

p>A handful of physicians and medical students from Albany Medical Center and College voiced support

A handful of physicians and medical students from Albany Medical Center and College voiced support for national health insurance Tuesday, saying it would save money and result in more efficient and better health care.

The group met at Albany Medical College to discuss a study released Tuesday that shows a majority of U.S. physicians — three-fifths — now support national health insurance.

The study was published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine, a leading medical journal. It showed that 59 percent of doctors support government legislation to establish national health insurance, while 32 percent oppose it and 9 percent are neutral. The study was done by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The findings reflect a shift in physicians’ attitudes compared with an identical survey five years ago.

Dr. Jennifer Pearce, director of pediatric hematology oncology at Albany Medical Center, who treats children with cancer, said seeing families with no health care for their children or themselves go through the anguish of poor medical care is something that is “not American, not normal and not healthy.”

“If all our children in this country had single-payer health care and got good health care and got proactive and preventative care, we would see a lot less of the adult diseases we see today,” said Pearce. “It would be a huge savings to have single-payer health care,” she said.

Pearce said about 30 percent of a physician’s time is spent on forms, appeals and paperwork involved with thousands of different insurance plans.

“A lot of our time, effort and intelligence is wasted with the idiosyncrasies of different health care plans — time, effort and brain power that could help patients have better lives and healthier lives.”

Pearce wasn’t always a proponent of single-payer health care. She has relatives in England and 20 years ago their health care was horrendous, she said, but the kinks were worked out and there is now a far more uniform system in England than in the United States.

Pearce said she did not know of one physician at Albany Medical Center who is not in favor of it.

Such a health plan would mean a single federally administered social insurance fund that guarantees health care coverage for everyone, much like Medicare does for seniors. It would eliminate or reduce the role of private insurance companies. “I encourage everyone to be behind this as an absolute necessity for the American health care system,” she said. Dr. Paul Sorum, chair of the local chapter of the Physicians for a National Health Program, said the study reflects the attitudes of most doctors and it’s an opinion that is growing. All patients would be covered and physicians would be reimbursed for service they provide to patients, not according to whether the patient has insurance or what type of insurance, said Sorum, a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics and a primary care physician for children and adults in Latham.

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