While the one reform that could cure what ails America's health care system has attracted plenty of adherents in the House -- 72 members have signed on as backers of House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers' single-payer proposal and others back a plan introduced by Washington Democrat Jim McDermott's legislation -- there has not been a Senate proposal to rally around. Until now.
That's what makes Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' proposed "American Health Security Act of 2009" such an important piece of legislation. In addition to being the first single-payer bill introduced in the Senate since the mid-1990s -- when the late Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, sponsored a bill similar to the plan now being advanced by Sanders -- it raises the profile of the doctors, nurses, patients and other campaigners who are trying to tell the Obama administration and its congressional allies that the legislative compromises they entertain are doomed to fail.
Under the American Health Security Act of 2009:
- Patients could seek care from the doctor or hospital of their choice.
- The new national health care program would be paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes amounting to less than what people now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.
- Funding would come from the federal government, but the program would be administered by the states.
- The high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry would be eliminated, along with the burdensome paperwork imposed on physicians and other providers. As a result, the plan would save at least $400 billion annually – enough money to provide comprehensive, quality care to all.
- Community health centers would be fully funded, giving the 60 million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to care.
- To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and dentists, resources for the National Health Service Corps to train an additional 24,000 health professionals would be provided.
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