A Friend of the Court
Utah docs fight health reform; push for single-payer system
BY KIRSTEN STEWART, The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published February 14, 2012
Fifty medical doctors who want a single-payer health care system rather than the proposed federal reform have signed a legal document opposing the law.
Among them are two from Utah: Joe Jarvis and Clark Newhall.
In a "friend of the court" brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court, the doctors and two non-profit groups — Single Payer Action and It’s Our Economy — urge justices to overturn the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that everyone have insurance.
The high court is weighing a challenge to the constitutionality of the insurance requirement via a lawsuit filed by 26 states, including Utah.
The Obama administration argues the requirement is necessary to protect insurance companies from the risk of people waiting until they’re sick to get covered.
But in their legal brief, doctors contend the requirement isn’t necessary to reach Congress’ goal of universal coverage.
"Most people oppose the [law] without having an alternative in mind. That’s disingenuous," said Jarvis of Salt Lake City.
A licensed doctor who no longer earns a living practicing medicine, Jarvis has long advocated for a better, cheaper and fairer way to deliver health care.
His decades-long push for a statewide health cooperative — a publicly-funded, nonprofit health insurance trust to cover every Utahn for all medically necessary care — has been a non-starter in conservative Utah. Chances of it gaining traction grew slimmer with passage of President Barack Obama’s health overhaul.
Jarvis isn’t a betting man. But he says the high court’s decision to consider multiple problems raised in opposition to the law, "shows they’re taking this seriously."
Without the insurance mandate, the law can’t stand on its own, which could open the door to single payer, he says.
Single-payer means different things to different people. Newhall, a doctor and malpractice attorney, wants Medicare for all.
Under the model promoted by Jarvis, a Republican, people would still pay for coverage, but it would be subsidized and kept affordable by eliminating insurance middle men and simplifying payments.
It calls for the creation of a commission to squelch unnecessary tests and procedures ordered by doctors required to meet productivity targets or to fend off malpractice lawsuits. The commission, composed of medical experts, would determine which services are covered for given conditions based on research. It would also hear malpractice claims and insurance appeals.
Obama’s fix does nothing to curb health spending, Jarvis said. "It’s a propping up of the private insurance business model. What they’re trying to do is force us to buy, in most cases, poor quality health benefits."