Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Answer

In response to my last post, Missy wants to know what solution I recommend to the problem of so many uninsured people in the U.S.; and m, like far too many of us, is worried about a relative (her mother, specifically) who is running up large medical bills and doesn't know how she'll pay for them. Indeed, medical expenses account for about half of all bankruptcies in the U.S.

m is discouraged that Americans aren't willing to pay a bit more in taxes to cover the uninsured, but in fact, that wouldn't even be necessary. If we had a single payer system, we could spend less on health care than we do now, while covering everybody, and as a matter of fact, the cost to people who currently have insurance would be less than it is now. The proof that this is possible is not hard to find. Just walk over the bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. There it is! Universal, comprehensive, high quality health care that costs less per capita -- a lot less -- while covering everybody, and people who are healthier and live longer than we do.

I have explained how this is possible before, also some helpful background here. We squander 25% of our health care dollar on administration -- doctors figuring out how to bill multiple payers, insurance companies marketing to employers, health plans spending money to deny services to people, insurance company profits and executive salaries, etc. As a youth, I worked as a material handler on assembly lines at a razor factory. One of the lines made disposable razors. Some of them went in regular consumer packaging, others were packaged as medical supplies. Otherwise they were identical. The "medical supplies," however, sold for four times as much. (And no, they weren't sterile.) With a single payer system, all that waste would disappear. Poof! We could also have the equivalent of Britain's National Institue for Clinical Excellence, so that we could be sure of getting the best and most cost effective health care.

Whenever there's a serious attempt to achieve universal coverage in the U.S., we get the same scary rhetoric -- it's going to raise your taxes, it's socialism, the government will control everything and you won't have any choices, Cervantes is a commie pinko hippie who wants the terrorists to win.

If you call the premiums people will pay for health insurance under a single payer system "taxes," then it might mean higher taxes for some people. but the "tax" increase would be less than the amount they would save on health insurance. It would mean either socialized or perhaps closely regulated health insurance, but it wouldn't mean socialized health care. In Canada, doctors are private entrepreneurs, people have totally free choice of doctors, and that's all there is to it. And so what if it is "socialism"? We have socialized elementary and high school education in this country, socialized law enforcement and firefighting, socialized road building and maintenance, socialized parks, a socialized coast guard, socialized armed forces, socialized libraries, socialized retirement income, and socialized health insurance for elderly and disabled people. What's wrong with that? Why not have socialized health insurance for everybody, like those Communist slave societies in England, Sweden, Norway . . .

The reason people try to scare you about universal health care is because they wouldn't be able to fatten themselves any longer by slurping up that stream of waste. They're rich insurance executives who have millions to spend on lobbying and public relations, and they don't want their gravy train to stop. That's all. They're greedy pigs. And they're stealing from you.