Two U doctors push for new national health-care plan

TBy Jake Weyer Two University doctors are among thousands pushing for a national health care plan proposed Tuesday by a national physicians group.

Dr. Edward P. Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, and Dr. Sally Ehlers, a University professor of medicine, are both members of the Physicians’ Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance.

The group supports a national plan which members said would ensure basic health service for everyone in the country.

“We spend more money per capita than anybody else in the world and yet we don’t have as good of health outcomes,” Ehlinger said.

The current U.S. health-care system is largely employer-based. Employers work through insurance companies to provide health care for workers. Because there are thousands of insurance companies, the current system is highly competitive, the doctors said.

The proposed national plan would eliminate the competitive aspect of health insurance by providing everyone with the same plan under one government provider, Ehlinger said.

An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday outlines the proposal. The article is signed by 8,000 medical doctors and students, two former U.S. Surgeon Generals, the former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and hundreds of professors and deans at U.S. medical schools.

According to the article, 41 million Americans have no health insurance and many others are underinsured. The United States also trails other developed nations in infant mortality and life expectancy rates, it says.

“It is embarrassing to note that other developments are surpassing us,” Ehlers said. “This should continually be a wake-up call that we need to do better.”

Not everyone thinks the current plan is headed for disaster.

“I don’t see it heading like a truck off the cliff,” said Roger Feldman, a professor in the School of Public Health. “But it’s tough to bet on these things.”

Feldman said there are problems with the current plan that need to be fixed and a national plan is not a bad idea, but he does not agree with the physicians’ group proposal partly because it is built on the foundation of the Medicare program.

“Do we want Medicare running a national health plan? No,” he said.

Ehlinger said the proposed plan would have a great impact on the University because the University would not be involved in health care at all. There would be no student insurance and employee unions would not need to negotiate health care with the institution.

“We could use our bargaining power to fight for other issues,” said Erik Jensen, a building and grounds worker at the University.

But implementing a national health-care plan is not something that will happen quickly, if at all, Ehlinger said.

“If we get this done in 30 years, I’ll be pleased,” he said. “I’d like to have it happen in my lifetime. I won’t hold my breath.”

Jake Weyer covers faculty and staff and welcomes comments at

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