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The situation with health care is getting worse faster than the federal health overhaul is going to make it better, said a group of doctors lobbying for government-run, universal health coverage, who spoke on the steps of the Capitol Monday.
“We’re headed for disaster, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has not helped at all,” said Dr. Paul Hochfeld, a emergency room physician who founded the group, which calls itself the Mad as Hell Doctors.
The federal health care reforms adopted earlier this year require states to set up insurance pools to provide affordable coverage to those who do not have it now. It is estimated that the pools will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured people. But, as the costs of medical care and insurance continue to rise, an estimated 14,000 people lose their health care coverage daily.
At that rate, an additional 40 million people would be added to the ranks of the uninsured by the time the reforms are fully implemented in 2019, outstripping the effect of the pools by 8 million, the group said.
Moreover, it has recently been estimated that between 40,000 and 45,000 people die every year because they lack insurance. That 45,000 figure – yearly – is almost as many as died during the entire Vietnam War, and that situation produced a deafening public outcry.
Many people will continue to be without insurance under the current reforms, and they will continue to be at risk of dying unnecessarily, Hochfeld and the others said.
Speaking on the Capitol steps with a loudspeaker and banners and tables set up with information, Hochfeld said the federal overhaul passed by the Congress in March and April was beneficial. But it does not go far enough. The reforms adopted do little or nothing to control medical costs, and costs continue to increase.
Last year, health care spending grew by 1.1 percent.
The United States currently spends more than twice as much on medical care as other developed nations.
“We haven’t fixed it yet,” Hochfeld said.
The Mad as Hell Doctors’ stop in Sacramento is part of a tour of California, with 21 other rallies in various parts of the state. The group calls itself “Mad as Hell” to signify its members’ displeasure with the fact that discussion of a single-payer system has been excluded from the debates over health care reform. They say it has been actively excluded through the efforts of the insurance and drug industries and conservative lobbyists.
The Capitol steps rally drew a very small audience of perhaps fewer than 20 people, something Hochfeld acknowledged while speaking. He said it was clear that during most of their tour stops they were not getting a huge contingent of undecided members of the public, but rather were “preaching to the choir,” and he asked the rhetorical question of whether rallying those already converted to the single-payer position was necessary.
He concluded that it was important because it keeps the single-payer discussion alive.
Talking in an interview afterwards, Hochfeld said it seems clear that the general public has become disillusioned with talking about health care reform. And he admitted that it sometimes feels as if his group is “storming the Bastille with rubber spears . . . . But someone has to do it,” he said.