Dr. Tom Clairmont is a man on a mission.

Clairmont, a primary care physician in Portsmouth, is a longtime vocal advocate for the single-payer Medicare for all health care plan.

"My job is the try and educate the public,” Clairmont highlighted. “I’ve done letters to the editor. I’ve given talks to the Rotary Club. I‘m doing a presentation on Monday night at the Portsmouth Public Library.”

Support for single-payer – a proposed single public system financed by taxes that covers the costs of health care for all of the country’s residents – has risen in public opinion polls in recent years. As of the end of 2018, some 125 Democrats in Congress had pledged their support for the plan.

Single-payer was a key part of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ platform during his 2016 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was a leading issue for many candidates running in last year’s midterm elections, where Democrats won back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now, with the start of the 2020 White House campaign and the spotlight shining on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Clairmont predicted that “2019 is the golden year.”

“This is the year of opportunity for us to really get our message out,” he said. “Sanders started this, lit a spark. A lot of the campaigns throughout the country (in 2018) were elected on Medicare for all.”

Clairmont’s a longtime member of Physicians for a National Health Program, a non-profit research and educational organization of some 22,000 doctors, medical students and health care professionals that for three decades has pushed for a national health insurance system.

“We have been fighting this fight, trying to get people to understand it’s in their interest and it’s beneficial for you to have this program,” he said.

He explained that Sanders’ Senate bill and a longtime House bill for single-payer are based on the original Physicians for a National Health Program proposal.

Opponents of Medicare for all – and there are many - argue that single-payer does not translate into better health care. Instead, they say access to health care would diminish under a single-payer system, and the overall quality of care would decline.

Opponents also claim that single-payer systems cause shortages of general physicians and specialists and reduce access to medical technology. They add that the system would be too expensive.

“Every research paper I can show you that’s come up has shown that single-payer saves money,” Clairmont responded.

He argued that moving to a single-payer system would provide $600 billion per year in savings, adding “the total cost is going to go down. We estimate that 95 percent of people will save money under a single-payer program.”

Pointing to critics, he said “another thing they say is ‘your taxes are going to go up.’”

“Yes, they are. But you have to add your taxes plus your premiums plus your out-of-pocket (costs), plus your co-pays and deductibles and all that,” he added as he claimed that those costs would go down.

As a doctor who sees patients every day, Clairmont said moving to single-payer “would get me away from all these insurance companies interfering with the practice of medicine. I’m sick of getting permissions to perform a test, permissions to send somebody to a certain doctor I like, permissions for almost anything today.”

“My favorite quote is ‘You don’t want a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor.’ Nothing could be further from the truth,” he argued. “You don’t want an insurance company bureaucrat between you and your doctor because those are the people who are interfering with care continually.”

A single-payer system is – of course - a threat to the insurance industry. Claimont said that “our program eliminates those people. We don’t have insurance companies in our program. They are gone.”

Medicare for All: A discussion of House Bill HR676 and what it means to you, Monday, Jan. 14, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Levenson Community Room, Portsmouth Public Library. Sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program.