Sunday, August 16, 2009

Support A Public Health Insurance Plan!

While going through e-mails this morning, I saw this news story. Apparently, the White House is starting to get worn down by the criticism they've been hearing. As soon as I saw the story, I wrote the following letter to the White House:


Dear President Obama;

I am a family physician in Richmond, Virginia. To date, my career has been in medically underserved communities in Virginia (both rural and urban) where healthcare access is difficult. Every day, I see patients who lack insurance or who have lost insurance when they lost their job or their employer dropped coverage. I have had patients ask me to do only the essential minimum of tests or procedures because they need to wait until Medicare kicks in before they could afford more care. I have had to advise patients which $4 prescription is most important because they cannot afford more than 1.

This system, which ranks 1st in the world in money spent but ranks 37th worldwide in key healthcare indicators, which leaves 1/6 of our nation's citizens uninsured, which values technology and intervention more than primary and preventive care, is crumbling and inadequate. We need to do better.

Private health insurance plans have clearly failed. In one study, 75% of patients who sought to purchase insurance in the private marketplace failed to purchase a plan because of cost and/or pre-existing conditions. Private health insurance premiums are soaring, even though they tend to cover healthier patients than public plans (Medicare and Medicaid cover a greater proportion of elderly, disabled and chronically ill patients) while insurance companies make enormous profits and deny care to millions of Americans.

Since last year's campaign, I have been hopeful that a viable public insurance option would result form healthcare reform. Although a single payer plan is my preference, a strong public health insurance option acting within the insurance marketplace would at least set a standard for coverage and costs that private plans would have to respect. A public health insurance plan is a necessary part of reform.

I heard the news coverage today that your administration might be willing to back away from a public health insurance plan. I wanted to write you in order for you to know that there are millions of us who support your efforts and who support a public option. We don't shout as much as others, and we don't tell outrageous lies, but we're here and we are standing behind you. Please--do not give up on the public health insurance plan. Our healthcare reform efforts will dictate healthcare in the US for the next 20 or 30 years. If done correctly, we can provide care to everyone in the US while increasing quality and reducing costs. If not done well, we will continue to lose people every year. This is too important to fail.


Mark Ryan, MD, FAAFP


These are critical days for healthcare reform. If you support a public option as part of meaningful reform, then you must let the White House know. We can no longer be a silent majority--we have to speak up. We don't have to be loud, abrasive, abusive or angry. But we have to be heard.

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