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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The slow march to universal healthcare

Posted by: Jambo / 9:23 AM

The Squid, my only friend who actually holds elected office, sent me an email yesterday:

From an opinion piece in “The Economist”

“Comprehensive health-care reform to create a system where all Americans have access to portable health insurance would do a lot to reduce workers’ anxiety and equip them for an economy that these days demand frequent job shifts.”

I’m taking this a bit out of context but the statement alone makes sense. I haven’t been big on a complete reform of our health-care system but this argument has merit. If the working class family didn’t have to worry about health care access (some sort of universal coverage) the workers may be more flexible with management and be ready to move on when necessary.

Thought of you when I read it.

I think The Squid would probably describe himself politically as a pragmatist and a moderate (unlike the wild eyed liberals that write 3WN) so I think having people like him start to consider universal healthcare is a good sign that the issue is growing in acceptance. I sent him the following response:

"That's exactly what I have been saying for a while. Universal coverage is good for workers and it is good for corporations. And of course it is good for people who are currently uninsured for one reason or another.

I have a good friend who's wife was diagnosed with cancer in the short period between when she left her job and when they got married and she was going to go on his insurance. Once she was diagnosed no company would touch her because it is a preexisting condition. That was 13 years ago and she is now fine health wise but it destroyed them financially. They are 40 and have never been able to buy a house and are still paying old bills. There's no other developed country in the world where this would happen and I think Americans should be ashamed.

That's also why I would like to see a single payer program so that the insurance pool includes everyone in the nation. Insurance companies currently make money by trying to only insure the healthiest people and spend a ton of money trying to figure out who those people are. And don't get me started on the costs to doctors and clinics of dealing with all those different companies.

I also wonder what it would do to unemployment if people not yet 65 could choose to retire without fear of being without insurance. That might actually open up a fair number of jobs to younger workers and save money for the companies as well.

As I think about it I'm not sure universal health insurance would make for more cooperative workers, tho. I bet these days workers are so scared of losing their health insurance that they will put up with a lot more from employers than they otherwise would. Maybe secure health benefits will make workers start demanding higher wages and some of the productivity gains of the last decade might actually make it to the ones doing most of the work. Universal might be one of those things that has an impact on society well beyond what anyone expects or predicts."

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