- Advocates a "single-payer," government-run healthcare system
- Co-founded by the late Quentin Young, a Chicago-based physician and a lifelong Marxist activist who 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” health care system — i.e., a system where a government-run organization would manage the care of every person in the United States — collecting all related fees and paying out all related costs.
In 2004, PNHP collaborated with a number of socialist, labor, church, and community organizations to form a wider coalition, Healthcare-NOW!, which likewise promoted “single-payer” reform.
Characterizing the existing U.S. health care 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 lesst than the rest of the world,” PNHP added, “is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit [insurance companies that] 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.”
Composed of more than 20,000 members (health professionals and medical students) across the United States, 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 seeks to “educate physicians and other health professionals about the benefits of a single-payer system — including fewer administrative costs and [making] health insurance [affordable] for the [millions of] Americans who have none.” The organization adds that “equitable accessibility requires … removal of the barriers to adequate health care currently faced by the uninsured, the poor, minority populations and immigrants, both documented and undocumented.” Foremost among those barriers, as PNHP sees them, is any trace of free-market capitalism in the health care system.
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’s members and spokespeople perform many tasks designed to spread the organization’s message of healthcare reform: they conduct research; coordinate speakers and forums; participate in town hall meetings and debates; contribute scholarly articles to medical journals; and appear on national television and news programs.
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 for Democracy and Socialism.
Other key leaders of PNHP have included such notables as:
- Steffie Woolhandler, a co-founder and former secretary of PNHP, who in 2000 spoke at the annual Socialist Scholars Conference in New York City