Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some Thoughts on Single Payer Health Care

Just a few thoughts on the advantages of a single payer system, which seems to be the intellectual version of kryptonite to many left of center thinkers these days. In the interests of full disclosure, I am in favor of a single payer, government run health care system and not afraid to say it.

To come out swinging, I would just like to immediately dismiss any thoughts that "the government" can't do anything. For perpetuating this myth I would like to thank Ronald Reagan, and state he has done his fellow Americans a terrible disservice with his quip that the most terrifying thing is to hear "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." What a champ.

Anyway, if the government can't do anything, I guess landing on the Moon's surface was a fluke. And defeating those nasty fascists in the 40's. And staving off national collapse during the Great Depression. By the way, the Second World War was an enormous socialist undertaking, with everyone pitching in, saving, being paid by and resources rationed through the government. Who paid for all those refrigerator factories to produce propeller heads? Government bonds, that's who. Maybe private enterprise could have done it quicker. Or maybe we'd be speaking a mishmash of Japanese and German.

Can anyone seriously argue with a straight face that capitalism was responsible for the Normandy D-Day landings or the manufacturing of the atom bomb? Please. In fact, some might argue that the Second World War was a fight between national socialism, aka fascism, international socialism, aka soviet style communism, and democratic socialism, aka the U.S.A., U.K. and Canada.

Anyway, consider these advantages to a single payer system that no one is speaking about: first, there would be no need to purchase certain types of mandated insurance, like we have these days. If you want to drive a car, you have to have no-fault insurance in case someone gets hurt in connection with the operation of that automobile. In a single payer system, no-fault insurance is wholly obviated, at least when it comes to providing medical care [I suppose it would not cover lost earnings as a result of an accident]. Inasmuch as there are tens of millions of cars on the road, all of which are supposed to have no-fault insurance, this would save Americans somewhere in the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. This is one way to offset any increased taxes needed to pay for a single payer system.

The same could be said for mandatory workmen's compensation insurance. In most locales companies with more than a certain number of non-owner employees are mandated to carry workmen's compensation to cover work related accidents. To the extent that a single payer system would cover the medical costs of workers injured on the job, again mandated workmen's compensation would be obviated. Though I do not know the hard numbers, I am guessing that would be a savings of many billions of dollars a year, and would especially help small businesses whose bottom lines are tighter.

The same would be true for big businesses, like General Motors, especially in the union retirement packages which cover retired employees until they are dead. In fact, it has been this kind of massive overhead which has destroyed much of the financial strength of GM, as well as the other Detroit Big Three.

In fact, all union health plans would be obviated.

And here's one for the right wing: inasmuch as any lawsuit for medical malpractice or personal injury would no longer have to include the costs of passed and future medical expenses, the single payer system is de facto tort reform. Bam! Suddenly, those liability insurance premiums for Ob-Gyns plummet, all because of a single payer system.

So there we have it: the single payer system would give us many advantages that are not being spoken out loud.

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