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Nurses to Congress: Expanding Medicare Could Reverse Job Losses, and Repair Our Broken Healthcare System and Safety Net
Date:1/28/2009

Dramatic New Study Presented in Congressional Briefing Today

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- On a day in which Congress prepared to vote on the Obama administration's proposed $800 billion economic stimulus package, the nation's largest organization of registered nurses said expanding Medicare to cover all Americans would be one of the most effective economic recovery programs - and could virtually end the nation's healthcare crisis overnight.

In a briefing for some 50 key Congressional staffers, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee today presented the findings of a dramatic new study that documents that extending Medicare to everyone would create 2.6 million new jobs, and infuse $317 billion in new business and public revenues and another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy.

Adding all Americans to an expanded Medicare system could be achieved for $63 billion beyond the current $2.1 trillion in direct healthcare spending. The $63 billion is far less than the federal bailout for CitiGroup, and less than half the federal bailout for AIG. Solely expanding Medicare to cover all uninsured Americans could be accomplished for $44 billion, the study shows.

The study, which may be viewed at www.CalNurses.org, was presented as part of a briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Healthcare, a coalition of nurses, doctors, students, large community-based membership groups, labor unions, religious organizations, and activists who support HR 676, a single-payer, Medicare-for-all bill, soon to be reintroduced.

"Nurses see the broken system at the bedside, but we also know that a single-payer system would help the economy recover and would free people from staying in jobs they do not like just to keep employer benefits," said CNA/NNOC Co-president Geri Jenkins, RN. "The jobs creation that would come from a single payer-system is just one reason RNs know that single-payer is the right thing to do for our patients, for ourselves and for our country."

The first-of-its kind study analyzes the economic benefits of healthcare to the overall economy, showing how changes in direct healthcare delivery affect all other significant sectors touched by healthcare, and how sweeping healthcare reform can help drive the nation's economic recovery. It was conducted by the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, the CNA/NNOC research arm.

"I'm an economist, and this study looks not only at what is happening within the healthcare field but also at the larger ripple effects into this economy," Robert Fountain, a frequent economics consultant for the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), who served as a consultant on the study, said at the briefing. "The study shows that single-payer reform based on the Medicare model would create jobs - and a lot of them - not only in the health field but also out in those areas where the ripples flow."

"Through direct and supplemental expenditures, healthcare is already a uniquely dominant force in the U.S. economy," said Don DeMoro, IHSP director and lead author of the study.

"However, so much more is possible. If we were to expand our present Medicare system to cover all Americans, the economic stimulus alone would create an immense engine that would help drive our national economy for decades to come," DeMoro said.

Dr. Walter Tsou, board adviser for the Physicians for a National Health Program board adviser and former health commissioner of Philadelphia, and Ronald Hikel, chief legislative and health policy aide to Rep. Eric Massa of New York, joined Fountain and Jenkins as speakers at the briefing.

"We don't spend 4 percent more than other nations or even 14 percent more than any other nation - we spend more than 40 percent more than any other nation spends, yet our outcomes are so much worse," Tsou noted.

Hickel, a former Canadian health official, talked about the conservative fears some have raised of a government role in paying healthcare bills, as occurs in Canada, or in the current U.S. Medicare system.

"I often hear people say that they fear a bureaucrat will decide their healthcare - nothing could be further from the truth. As a Deputy Minister of Health for Manitoba, I can tell you unequivocally that I was forbidden by law from entering into any clinical decisions - and that was punishable by 10 years in prison. So when I hear people say they don't want bureaucratic healthcare, I tell them they must be thinking about an HMO," Hickel said.

"If I could flip a lever tomorrow and enact HR676, it is undoubtedly the way for the United States to go," said Hickel. "It is a matter of political will and what is right for the nation."

Representing 85,000 RNs in 50 states, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee is the largest and fastest-growing association of direct-care RNs in the nation. Learn more at www.calnurses.org.


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SOURCE California Nurses Association
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