Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Few More Healthcare Thoughts

Blog-friend Denis Sanders of Neomugwump emailed me regarding my healthcare post. He commented:

Do you suggest a single-payer Canadian style system? There's a part of me that agrees there needs to be government involvement, but shudders at having the federal government assume such a big role in handling something like health care. (It's the Republican in me, I can't help it.)Many on the Democratic side like the Canadian system, but it has it's drawbacks as well.

I'm not crazy about the single-payer plan, but there are other options. The free market alone can't do this and as a little-known Republican named Abe Lincoln once said, what the individual can't do, government must.

I thought I’d share my response as I believe it better clarifies my thinking on healthcare, an issue I’ve researched and given a lot of thought to over the last few years. I responded as such:

The Canadian system has a lot of problems as well and I too shudder at the idea of the government running healthcare. I don't think a single-payer system is the only option. But I do think we need pretty radical change and I'm open to a heavily subsidized system and even a government program that competes with private programs (think US Postal Service vs. UPS). I don't have an easy answer or even a preferred one at this point.

But I do think we need to detach healthcare from employment. That's not to say an employer can't help you pay for a plan, but we shouldn't all be tied to the plan chosen by our employer. Nor should we face the threat of losing healthcare if we change jobs or go to work for ourselves. In the evolving economy, workers need flexibility in order to succeed. The current healthcare system limits flexibility and choice.

For those who wonder how we would pay for a new system, I’d point out we already bear huge hidden healthcare costs. Every product we buy is more expensive to help companies pay for their employees' healthcare. All our wages our depressed in order to help companies afford our healthcare. Our healthcare bills are inflated to help cover the costs of all the uninsured people who need emergency services but can't pay for them. The value of several major American companies has significantly decreased because those companies cannot afford the benefits and specifically the healthcare promised to their pension holders and current employees.

A reasonable system would help eliminate all these hidden costs. If done right, the net effect would be to help the economy and increase the prosperity of workers of all classes -- not to mention it would improve American health.

Changing our healthcare system is not an easy task. But it's been built like a Jenga tower and will come down one way or another. I'd rather dismantle and rebuild than hoping the mess stays steady as we pile on new pinpointed regulations and complicated, targeted benefits.



Anonymous Hamilton said...

Some anecdotal evidence against nationalized healthcare that I have previously posted on another blog:

In Canada… I have it on authority from a member of the Canadian Parliament that when the former Prime Minister needed cancer treatment, he traveled to Massachusetts for top-quality medical care. Apparently he could not find a single hospital in his entire country that could give him the care he required. Sort of reminds me of Yasser Arafat traveling to France for treatment…

In Canada, an elderly woman (a constituent of said Parliamentarian) who needed hip replacement surgery had to go on a waiting list for eight months. An acquaintance of mine from Canada had to have surgery on her knee, and she had to go on a waiting list for a number of months. Ironically, she was able to acquire surgery for her sick dog in about one hour. Not a vet check-up… surgery.

12:41 AM  

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