Sunday, February 18, 2007


JACK E. LOHMAN, WIS POLITICS - With the vast majority of the public -- and even the "non-healthcare" business leaders -- supporting universal health care, why are our politicians not on board?

It makes every bit of financial sense for businesses to get out of providing health care and to turn it over to the most successful ever public-private venture: Medicare. As a Medicare patient I have the same coverage and physician choice I had before retiring. It's just managed by a single payer: WPS in Madison.

Don't think for a moment that single-payer is just another liberal giveaway; it is the most fiscally conservative way possible of financing health care for Wisconsin citizens. . .

Medicare-for-all would do wonders for businesses by reducing labor costs by 15 percent; reducing worker compensation costs by 50 percent; and cutting their and everybody else's auto insurance rates in half. With these reduced costs they could add jobs in Wisconsin rather than sending them to other countries. Health care would no longer be a labor union negotiation and job changes would not involve gaps in insurance, preexisting disease exclusions or delays, or COBRA costs.

New jobs would mean new tax revenues, increased property values, and less unemployment, welfare and associated costs. New businesses will move to Wisconsin and old businesses will keep their doors open. And when businesses no longer have to add their health costs to the price of their product, we will see lower prices at the cash register and greater competitiveness against foreign products that aren't burdened with health care costs.

Who wouldn't like these single-payer benefits?

For one, the insurance companies that are currently reaping 20-30 percent of health care dollars won't like it a bit, and neither will the politicians who receive campaign contributions from health care interests. Nor will the board members that sit on both health care and non-health care corporate boards, though business associations that serve both factions owe it to the latter to sit this issue out. The conflicts of interest that stand in the way of good public policy abound.

If corporations are not willing to provide employee health care at least equivalent to Medicare, they should get out of the way and let the government do it. We don't want their inadequately funded solutions or a mish-mash of prohibitively expensive half-way measures. Or health savings accounts that are time bombs waiting to explode in credit card debt and bankruptcies.

Nor do we want an incremental approach that will not cover all citizens and is sure to fail. The public wants it done right and wants it done now.

Think about it. For the same amount of money we are paying to cover 85 percent of the public now, we could cover 100 percent under a single-payer plan like Canada's -- but without the wait times. Over 80 percent of Canadians prefer their system to ours. Their life expectancy is two years longer and infant mortality 35 percent less than ours -- mostly because everybody is insured under a single-payer plan.

Canada spends 10 percent of its gross domestic product on health care while we spend 15 percent of GDP and get less for it. They cover 100 percent of their people and we cover 85 percent and that is shrinking. Their administrative costs are 10 percent compared to our 20-30 percent. They have no wait times for urgent procedures, and those for elective care could be eliminated with a simple increase in funding by 10 percent -- to 11 percent of GDP. While their problem is funding, ours is systemic.

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