You knew it was coming, my single-payer post. It’s a nice wrap-up to the series. (I figured since I was agreeing with KevinMD and Panda so much I had to do something.)
I could make my argument for single-payer in any number of ways, but you’ve probably already heard them:
- Human dignity. Everyone should have health care as a human right. That people deserve health care, and as a wise family practice doc from Idaho wrote, the uninsured pay for their health care with their dignity. That almost all of the uninsured and underinsured are hardworking, tax-paying people who either make “too much” money to qualify for programs for the poor like Medicaid or don’t make enough for their employers to also provide health insurance. Or that health insurance is often way too expensive for their families, or even if they bought health insurance, it wouldn’t cover their major problems, like their kid’s asthma (sorry, pre-existing condition).
- We the taxpayers and insured are already paying for the uninsured in the form of higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, and longer waits for our own health care (remember, we’re all connected). Since we’re humane enough to have EMTALA and not let people die on the streets, people are going to get some level of care, no matter how poorly planned, poorly organized, or terribly chaotic it is. We might as well just pay for everyone and get a better bang for our buck, no? Isn’t that the American way, to at least get a good deal?
- Economic growth is seriously stunted by our current non-system. Why did the Jelly Belly factory cross the border? To get cheaper health care costs in Canada. (True story.) In our global economy, take a look at any American industry and you’ll see our health care costs stick out like a sore thumb–and this makes American companies have higher costs and are therefore less competetive. US automakers currently pay more for their employees’ health insurance than the steel to build their cars (which is why renowned health care economist Uwe Reinhardt refers to the American car companies as health insurance providers financed by selling cars).
Many people–especially potential small business owners/entrepreneurs–simply forget any aspirations they have of starting their own business because of health care costs. If you quit your job and lose your health insurance and then get sick, you’re screwed. So there’s an incentive to stay in a job one hates, no matter how unproductive the worker is, because it provides them with health insurance.
- We already ration care. Many people cite a valid concern that single-payer would lead to ominous “health care rationing.” They do not realize that we already ration care: based on ability to pay, not health care need.
- Single-payer will save us money. Take a look at any proposed health care scheme, as many economists have in multiple previous studies (California Health Care Options Project, The Vermont Single-Payer Study, The Maryland Single-Payer Study, Massachusetts Health Care Studies, and Maine’s Single-Payer Microsimulation. Just to be clear, these analyses were done by The Lewin Group and Mathematica Consulting, two economic analyst groups. Not single-payer supporters), and you’ll see that single-payer is the only one that provides health insurance to everyone while actually costing overall less. It does this by doing bulk-purchasing of products, just like you do at Sam’s Club. It also majorly simplifies administrative overhead–think of the billions spent on duplicate forms a doctor has to process from the thousands of health plans out there–and the costs of increased health care usage are still absorbed in the savings. (I’m not about to deny that Medicare has paperwork requirements, but they’d be one set of paperwork requirements only.)
Like I said. Probably really nothing new if you’ve ever read any single-payer stuff on the Internets or my blog in particular. But I’m here to propose a different, and much more important reason we should adopt single-payer. We can’t afford not to. On To Single-Payer, Part 2