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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When is someone going to champion universal healthcare?

Posted by: Jambo / 12:26 AM

The NYT on the Chrysler/Benz crash:

Still, those problems might have been solved. What seemed intractable was the tremendous drag of Chrysler’s legacy costs. The pension and health-care commitments for employees and retirees come to a whopping $18 billion.

This is a role reversal: it is the American free-market system that is supposed to be maneuverable like a snazzy little sports car and the German social welfare state that is supposed to groan under the weight of high costs.

Cerberus will try to lower those costs at the negotiating table with the United Automobile Workers. But policy makers in the United States will also have to confront the increasingly obvious fact that the American health-care morass does not just leave close to 50 million people without insurance, it is a drag on our most important industries.

I said it in one of the very first posts I ever made here at 3WN. This is a winning issue for the Democrats. Grab it now people and be a hero to ordinary workers AND American business. If you can't see how this works you don't deserve to get elected to anything.

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Kevin Drum notes that yet another study shows that America pays the most for the least when it comes to health care. The Canadian system is not doing much better, but it costs 1/2 as much. The Brits come out on top while spend $2,500 per capita (2004). The U.S. comes bottom in the study while spending $6,000 per capita (2004).

Not only is universal health care good for workers and good for business, it's a great deal cheaper, to boot.

By Blogger Hammer, at 9:28 AM  

Not enough voting Americans think it is an issue and you can't get elected on a non-issue.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:18 AM  

If one of the top tier presidential candidates decided to run with it he or she could MAKE it an issue. I guess what I'm really asking for is some actual leadership. I know, don't hold my breath. But the frustrating part for me is that it is such a clear winner. Do it right and you don't just win an election, you're the hero of a generation. And so is your party. Don't any of them see this?

By Blogger Jambo, at 11:53 AM  

I think the contrast is with FDR. People were clamoring for help. Enter Social Security. We don't have the same sense of urgency about health care, though perhaps we should.

By Blogger Hammer, at 12:11 PM  

Does anyone have statistics on universal health care for a country with the population on par with the population of the US?

I curious; I don't know what the results are.

According to what I just googled, Canada's population is circa 33 millon. The population of the US is circa 301 million.

Based on these numbers it is an unrealistic expectation to think that increasing the population served by the service isn't going to increase the cost to at least what we pay currently, or maybe more.

Don't get me wrong. I agree w/ the $6000/annually figure for my family, and I don't like paying it. But no one has come to the table, AFAIK, with any data/evidence that a universal system will provide like coverage at less cost.

I think of countries like China and the Soviet Union when I think about health care on a grand scale.

What are those costs? What are the opinions on quality of care of the people covered by the universal systems in those countries?

Let's look at health care in Indonesia and Brazil for better comparisons of what could be here in the US.

By Anonymous Ba Ha Ha, at 12:14 PM  


Both public and private sectors finance health care in Brazil. The federal government funds universal medical care through the Sistema Unico de Saude (SUS) program, which was passed into constitutional law in 1988. SUS funds public hospitals in Brazil and contracts for medical care at individual private hospitals. Because Brazilians are not required to qualify or register for SUS, any person in Brazil can receive free medical care at any hospital with a SUS contract. Although the federal constitution guarantees universal health care to all Brazilians through SUS, the actual delivery of this care is limited by insufficient government funding. Brazilian health care also is funded by private medical insurance, which both complements and, in some cases, competes with SUS. Certain national corporations and government entities provide employees' medical insurance, which is valid only at specified hospitals.

By Anonymous Ba Ha Ha, at 12:19 PM  

From medicalnewstoday:

The CPES study used data from different official sources to show that the average real salary increase in Brazil has been declining year by year for the past 20 years. According to the IBGE Family Budget Survey (POF), in 2003, Brazilian households spent an average of 5.35% of their income on health care.

Looking at future scenarios, Ferraz believes that, if real income stagnates at roughly the same level, by 2025 households will be spending 14% of their income on health care If family household income falls by 1% each year, this percentage will go up to 17%. Even in an optimistic scenario, with income increasing by 1% per year, HH expenditures on health care, as a percentage of total income, would be 11%. The reason is that, historically, health care goes up faster than the average measured rate of inflation.

Of course, Brazilan income is much below that of US income.

The data I could find is that the higest per capita income in the country is in the federal area with a per capita income of $7,000.

By Anonymous Ba Ha Ha, at 12:40 PM  

Based on these numbers it is an unrealistic expectation to think that increasing the population served by the service isn't going to increase the cost to at least what we pay currently, or maybe more.

I don't know why this would be. If the system works for 30 million I would think that returns to scale could make it just as efficient for 300 million. But in any case I'm not sure how we would go about predicting that. The few countries that are similar to us in size are pretty different from us socially. But even if that were the case (that a bigger system would ratchet up costs) I suppose you could break it down by regions or groups. The laboratory of democracy camp might even say the best bet is for each state to come up with their own system. Maybe we could set up a national system but let states opt out if they had a better one.

Or maybe it would make sense to divide people by groups; seniors get Medicare (which sure seems to work pretty well and at lower cost than private insurance) veterans get the VA (which over the last decade has quietly turned into one of the great healthcare success stories [Walter Reed is NOT a VA hospital btw]) and we create a new system that automatically covers all kids (Medicare Junior?) and then create a new system for all the remaining adults which granted would still rival the size of the major western democracies' programs.

If I were to take a wholly practical approach to the thing I would start by immediately making every American kid eligible for Medicare. That's not good enough but would do a huge amount of good in pretty short order. Can you imagine the effect on American families if they no longer had to worry about health insurance for their kids?

By Blogger Jambo, at 12:34 PM  

I like the idea of having each state administer/run state sponsored health care. In that case state's can really flex their rights for what they think is best for their citizens.

As a former recipient of GopherCare and BadgerCare for my family when times were tough, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of service.

These services were both afforable, and IIRC, fees were based on a sliding scale based on income.

Makes we wonder what other states have and if nothing, why not have something like these programs. Isn't that the reason Tommy Thompson went to Washington?

By Anonymous Ba Ha Ha, at 4:26 PM  

Gophercare (and I assume Badgercare) are programs based on economic need. Don't lose sight of why this is a good issue for Democrats. It's not because it insures the uninsured. While that tugs at our liberal heartstrings voters for the most part don't really give a shit about the uninsured unless they happen to be among them. And that's why we're never going to get universal healthcare based on helping the less fortunate. We're going to get it because it is good for big business. Ultimately universal healthcare (at least if it is single payer) will benefit everyone but the insurance companies. There are huge returns to a party that does something big that benefits just about every voter. I want the Democrats to wake up and be that party.

By Blogger Jambo, at 9:12 PM  

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