It’s Time to Join the Rest of the World on Health Care

With the recent announcement that health-care premiums under Obamacare are expected to skyrocket, I would like to ask if anyone is surprised. Until we join the rest of the world and move to single-payer government-financed health care we will continue to have the most expensive and complicated health-care system on earth. Below is an excerpt from the Epilogue of NOW They Make it Legal where I got a little political but I try to make this case.

One thing I have in common with Republicans is that I too hate Obamacare. But we hate it for different reasons. I hate it because it is far more complex and costly than a single-payer national health care system would be. Republicans hate it simply because it is complex and costly, and because it is this president’s signature piece of legislation.

In every other developed country on the face of the earth, the government pays for health care for its citizens. Only this country insists on keeping health care privatized under the notion that insurance companies, with an objective of maximizing profits, will fund health care more efficiently than the government.

Is Obamacare overly complex, inefficient and costly? Absolutely, because the hoops the Republicans made the president and other Democrats go through to make sure private insurers would still make their profits while no longer denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is the reason the system is the way it is. If the Democrats had their druthers, we’d have a single-payer, government-funded national health care system like every other developed country on the face of the earth. But Republicans consider this socialism. They can’t get past the word.

And while we’re at it, we’re also the only country that drags employers into the health insurance business, expecting them to subsidize their employees’ health care costs. This can’t be good for our global competitiveness.

Of course, a single-payer national health care system would mean higher taxes. How else is the government supposed to pay for everyone’s health care? What gets lost in the debate is that the taxes should be no more than the premiums we’re already paying private insurers, and would probably be less.

When Congress was negotiating the terms of Obamacare, Republicans would not even consider a public option for people who could not get coverage from private insurers due to pre-existing conditions. They implied that private insurers would not be able to compete with a not-for-profit government payer. Isn’t this basically admitting you think the government can fund health care more efficiently with no profit motive?

Instead, Republicans agreed (reluctantly) that for-profit insurers could no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions as long as everyone was required to buy insurance. Then they complained that forcing people to buy insurance was unconstitutional.

This country spends far more per capita on health care than any other country and our outcomes are no better than middle of the pack. On what basis can we say that our unique style of financing health care is better than everyone else’s?

Come on, people. I know you all think we, America, are the best. But there is a reason that every other developed country on the face of the earth pays for health care for its citizens. To deny such a thing is inhumane. You can read all the propaganda you want about people waiting in lines in Canada, or people in Europe not getting the quality of services we do. The fact is no country has ever shown any inclination to can its health-care system for ours.

I have friends who are Republicans, believe it or not. Shortly after Obamacare became law, one of them complained that he knew someone whose insurance premiums were going to go up 30 percent “because of Obamacare.”

“That’s because the insurance companies have to make their profits,” I explained. “They used to be able to just insure people who would be profitable and turn down people who might have actual medical needs. Now they have to insure everybody. So to maintain their profits, they have to raise premiums.”

I’ll conclude this editorial on health care and politics by pointing out that we already have a government-financed national health care system, folks. It is called Medicare. And soon it will cover the majority of health care expenses in this country. That’s because the biggest users of health care, by far, are the elderly. And pretty soon, all of us Boomers will be elderly and on Medicare. Some of us already are.

Wouldn’t it make sense to simply extend Medicare to everyone, adding the young and healthy to pay into the system, and be done with it? Republicans have yet to propose any other alternative short of eliminating Obamacare and going back to the previous system that gave private insurers all the control and millions of Americans being denied coverage. Their silence is telling.