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Advocates a "single-payer," government-run healthcare system
Co-founded by Quentin Young, a Chicago-based physician and a lifelong Marxist activist who has had a major influence on his friend and political ally, Barack Obama
Also co-founded by Peter Orris, a former leader of the Students for a Democratic Society and a longtime member of both the Communist Party and its splinter group, the Committees of Correspondence
Established in 1987, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) is America’s oldest existing advocacy group for a "single-payer" healthcare system; i.e., a system where a government-run organization would manage the healthcare of every person in the United States—collecting all related fees and paying out all related costs.
Consisting of more than 17,000 members (physicians, medical students, and health professionals) nationwide, PNHP “opposes for-profit control, and especially corporate control, of the health system.” It contends, instead, that “access to high-quality health care is a right of all people and should be provided equitably as a public service rather than bought and sold as a commodity.” As PNHP sees things, the quest to achieve government-run health care is part of a larger “campaign for social justice in the United States.”
PNHP's members and spokesmen perform many tasks designed to spread their message of healthcare reform: they conduct research, participate in town hall meetings and debates, contribute articles to medical journals, and appear on national television and news programs.
Characterizing the existing U.S. healthcare system as “outrageously expensive, yet inadequate,” PNHP said in 2009:
“Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations … the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 46.3 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.... The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay.”
The single-payer system that PNHP envisions would be financed by "truly progressive taxation"; by "eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste"; by a series of "modest new taxes" that would "replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business"; and by controlling costs "through negotiated fees, global budgeting and bulk purchasing."
PNHP was founded by Quentin Young, a Chicago-based physician and a lifelong Marxist activist who has had a major influence on his friend and political ally, Barack Obama.
Young’s PNHP co-founder was Dr. Peter Orris, a former leader of the Students for a Democratic Society and a longtime member of both the Communist Party and its splinter group, the Committees of Correspondence (where he remains a prominent figure to this day).
Other leading PNHP activists (and thus, key shapers of President Obama’s healthcare agendas) include the following:
Mark Almberg, a prominent member of the Illinois Communist Party since the 1970s
Oliver Fein (PNHP president) and Steffi Woolhandler (PNHP secretary), both of whom have spoken in favor of single-payer healthcare at the annual Socialist Scholars Conferences in New York City
In 2004, PNHP collaborated with a number of socialist, labor, church, and community organizations to form a wider coalition, Healthcare-NOW!, which likewise promotes "single-payer" reform. Quentin Young is a Healthcare-NOW! co-chair.
PNHP’s mission has attracted a number of former radicals from the 1960s and 1970s to its cause. As the blogger Trevor Loudon pointed out in December 2009, several signatories to a 1976 Illinois Communist Party electoral petition are now are active in the modern "single-payer" movement; all of them are strongly supportive of PNHP and its leaders.
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