Fifteen years ago, Harry and Louise sat at their kitchen table and worried about the possibility of a national health care plan. “They choose, and we lose,” was the theme of their widely-viewed political advertisement. By 2008, the now middle-aged couple acknowledged that “Whoever the next president is, health care should be at the top of his agenda.”
CEOs Urge Reform – Health Care Costs “A Significant Competitive Disadvantage in the Global Marketplace”
U.S. business leaders urged lawmakers on Thursday to act quickly on healthcare reform, saying American companies were losing out to other countries with cheaper healthcare and healthier workers. […]
Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and chief executive of Verizon Communications, said an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system ‘should have been done yesterday’.
Quoting from the study summary (PDF):
According to the Business Roundtable Health Care Value Comparability Study, a new measure of the “value” (cost and performance) of the U.S. health care system relative to our competitors’ systems on a weighted scale, the workers and employers of the United States face a 23 percent “value gap” relative to five leading economic competitors – Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France (the “G-5 group”) – and a 46 percent “value gap” compared with emerging competitors Brazil, India and China (“the BIC group”).
Media Ignores Single-Payer Option
A study by the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) concluded that:
Major newspaper, broadcast and cable stories mentioning healthcare reform in the week leading up to President Barack Obama’s March 5 healthcare summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program … advocates of such a system – two of whom participated in yesterday’s summit – were almost entirely shut out. (03-06-09)
What is Single-Payer?
The publicly funded organization Single Payer Central supplies a succinct definition:
Single payer health insurance is a system by which the health care expenditures of an entire population are paid for through one source.
Distinctly different from socialized medicine (where the government owns and operates health care facilities) a “single payer system” is simply a financing mechanism. The government collects and allocates money for health care but has little to no involvement in the actual delivery of services. Care is provided privately at hospitals and clinics but paid for publicly.
Who Wants It?
Recent polls have established that substantial health care reform is a high priority for the majority of Americans. When asked, most favor the single-payer option.
In June of 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors resolved to back single-payer health insurance.
An Indiana University School of Medicine’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research survey found that a majority of American physicians support national health insurance. Roger Bybee explains why.
The cost of health care insurance administration is a significant portion of the fee paid for a doctor’s office visit. A family practice physician recorded a typical day at his office to show the resources devoted to dealing with “an insidious bureaucratic monster, the health care insurance system.”
Physicians For A National Health Program (PNHP) predicts that a single-payer system “would eliminate the wasteful spending and high administrative costs of private insurance, saving almost $400 billion annually.”
Single-payer advocate Dr. Oliver Fein chronicled his first-hand experience at the White House Health Care Summit.
KDKA radio host Chris Moore interviewed Russell Mokhiber, an organizer of the activist group, Single Payer Action. Mr. Mokhiber talked about mobilizing support for H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act. You can listen to a podcast of their conversation.
Despite widespread support, single-payer faces formidable opposition from the health care insurance industry. According to Consumer Reports, “In 2006, the nation’s six biggest private health insurers collectively earned almost $11 billion in profits.” But, there are indications that health insurers might not have as many business allies as in 1993. John F. Wasik of Bloomberg News comments that there is “No Reason to Demonize U.S. Single-Payer.”
Our confidence in American financial institutions has diminished. The only thing they’ve earned recently is outrage. The health insurance industry is in danger of catching the spillover of that anger. President Obama and Congress might want to consider that as they negotiate a solution to the real cost of living.
Update: On Tuesday, March 31, the PBS program FRONTLINE presents “Sick Around America,” a report on the failures of the American health care system. From the PBS Pressroom:
As President Obama launches his plan for reforming healthcare, Kaiser Family Foundation president Drew Altman tells FRONTLINE, “This is the first big opportunity for health reform since … [the] early 1990s. And a question is again, pointedly, whether we will blow the opportunity again this time or [whether] we will actually get it all done or get something significant done.” Consultant Laszewski wonders if Americans have the will to make it happen. “Every doctor I meet says he’s underpaid. I’ve yet to meet a hospital executive who thinks he or she can operate on less. I have yet to meet a patient who is willing to sacrifice care. So we have this $2.2 trillion system, and I haven’t met anybody in any of the stakeholders that’s willing to take less. And until we’re willing to have that conversation, we’re just sort of nibbling around the edges.”
FRONTLINE airs from 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. EDT. View a preview of “Sick Around America.”
Steve Sikora blogs about governance, media, business and community at Art of Angles.