From Harper’s: Luke Mitchell on Single-payer Health Care
The argument for single payer is straightforward. When everybody is in, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money deciding who to keep out. You also don’t have to worry about what to do with the people you’ve kept out when they get sick anyway. (Uninsured sick people cost insurers nothing, but since they often end up seeking expensive emergency-room treatment, they cost taxpayers a lot.) If you want to quit your job and work someplace else, you can do so without fear of losing your health insurance, which means that labor is more mobile. And employers don’t have to carry the burden of benefits, which means that capital is more mobile. If you get sick, you don’t have to worry about losing your coverage or your house. Your insurance is paid for through taxes. And your taxes don’t go up just because you have a preexisting condition; under single payer, there is no such thing as a “preexisting condition.” Moreover, your provider—the single payer—has an incentive to keep you healthy your entire life, rather than just getting you to age sixty-five and then dumping you into Medicare. And if the experience of most other countries is any indication, the whole thing would cost a lot less than our current bloated mess of a system.
The benefits of single payer were at one time if not a matter of consensus then at least a topic considered worthy of discussion, at least among Democrats. “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer health-care program,” Barack Obama said in 2003. “As all of us know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, we have to take back the House.” And yet as Democrats began to take all of those things back, Obama began to reconsider. In 2007, he recast the debate in terms that were more reflective than prescriptive. “If you’re starting from scratch,” he told The New Yorker, “then a single-payer system would probably make sense. But we’ve got all these legacy systems in place, and managing the transition, as well as adjusting the culture to a different system, would be difficult to pull off.” And now that Democrats have the White House, the Senate, and the House, it is clear that a single- payer program is not a part of their agenda.
Read the rest of “Sick in the Head: Why America won’t get the health-care system it needs” for free…
From Ralph Nader, “The Single-payer Taboo” in Op-ed News:
There is no place at the table for single payer advocates in the view of the Congressional leaders who set the agenda and muzzle dissenters. Last month at a breakfast meeting with reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to a question about health care with these revealing and exasperating words: “Over and over again, we hear single payer, single payer, single payer. Well, it’s not going to be a single payer.” Thus spake Speaker Pelosi, the Representative from Aetna? Never mind that 75 members of her party have signed onto H.R. 676-the Conyers single payer legislation. Never mind that in her San Francisco district, probably three out of four people want single payer. And never mind that over 20,000 people die every year, according to the Institute of Medicine, because they cannot afford health insurance.
From the Web
“Her daughter, Fatima Abdul Karim, 5, has barely left the house since she was injured in late 2003 during the chaos that erupted when a car bomb exploded. ‘I dropped her,’ Hassan said quietly. ‘She was in my arms, and I dropped her. She’s never going to walk again.’ When Blauser began fitting the first child, he realized that the wheelchair was missing the custom-made tool that allows parents to adjust the chair as the child grows. He soon discovered that all the chairs were missing the critical part. The U.S. officer in charge of the event called the Iraqi soldiers and questioned them. Minutes later, the Iraqis walked in with 11 of the 32 tools. They had no explanation for the fate of the rest or for a wheelchair that they didn’t deliver. ‘Iraqis enjoy some sense of civility with us here,’ Blauser said later.”
The exceptionally sluggish pace of new-vehicle sales, moreover, in the face of extremely attractive incentives being offered by the automakers might imply that Americans are considering making more-permanent adjustments to their lifestyles. And the denigration of the brand of the Big Three automakers in light of their financial difficulties— about one third of Americans have generally told pollsters they will buy only an American-made car— might reduce some of the patriotic associations with the activity of driving. Building a light-rail system might not persuade Bubba to get rid of his vehicle— but forcing him to buy foreign might.
One can hardly imagine anything that would have better justified the established social and economic theories of the Industrial Revolution than the claim that our very biological natures are examples of basic laws of political economy. How else are we to explain the immediate and continued commercial success of Darwin’s books? The entire first edition of 1,250 copies of the Origin was immediately snapped up by booksellers. The expectation of public interest is revealed by the fact that a circulating library took five hundred copies. The sixth edition, only thirteen years later, sold 11,000 copies. One cannot understand the origin and the immediate success of the Origin outside of the social and economic setting in which it was conceived, nor have historians of science ignored the question. The pages of the Journal of the History of Biology have certainly not been devoid of papers on the subject. Yet what we have been provided with in 2009 is biography and annotations on the Origin, Perhaps it is time for a socioeconomic analysis of our own preoccupations.