Kentuckians propose single-payer plan

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “They have outsourced the jobs, but they did not outsource the diseases and the conditions from which the people suffer,” said Dr. Syed Quadri at a Feb. 2 health care forum here sponsored by the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center. The center held hearings in 15 Kentucky area development districts on the problems of people with little or no insurance.

Quadri, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, lives and practices about 50 miles south of Louisville. He helps to staff the Elizabethtown Free Clinic, where the uninsured with little income go when desperate for care. He told of a woman patient who had been insured for 28 years but lost her coverage when her job was outsourced. Unable to pay for care, she delayed it. When she arrived at the clinic her blood sugar was in the 400s and her cholesterol was 350 — dangerously high figures.

The free clinic, is only a stopgap. “We often see patients who have not seen a doctor for three or four years. We try to care for them, but there is only so much we can provide. Many need specialists. Because people have no insurance, sometimes we can’t find the surgeons we need,” he said.

“In the world’s richest nation,” said Quadri, “it surprised me when I saw the problems here.”

Lack of insurance is responsible for 18,000 deaths a year in this country, he said.

He then sounded a more hopeful note. “We have a solution — single-payer universal health care,” he said. He referred to HR 676, single-payer legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).

“All money would be spent on health care,” Quadri said. “We would cut out the middlemen who take 15 percent to satisfy the greed of the dons of Wall Street.” This single-payer system would eliminate all co-pays and deductibles, providing coverage to all with no barriers, he said. “Health costs are rising, while the executives of health companies are getting hundreds of millions.”

Dr. Edgar Lopez, a Louisville surgeon and member of PNHP, said, “We have to hit the streets. We have to have a peaceful revolution. The managed care industry is the American tsunami.”

Quadri urged the group to learn more at www.pnhp.org.

Ellen Kelley, program manager of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, spoke of the plight of the MS patients she seeks to help. These patients need drugs that cost from $2,000 to $3,000 a month to prevent their condition from getting worse. But once the patients have received their Social Security Disability, they must wait for two years before they have health insurance. “I have no answers for them,” she said.