Monday, June 29, 2009

Got Health Insurance? Fighting for a Public Option Might Just Get You a Raise!

By Joshua Holland

The best argument for overhauling our ridiculously expensive and dysfunctional health care system -- an argument one doesn't often hear in the corporate media -- is that fixing it would put more dollars in your pocket, even if you already have health coverage.
But at the end of the day, people are most interested in the heft of their wallets. Ezra Klein argues that if people understood the health care debate in these terms -- reform the system and control costs; get a handle on costs and get a pay raise! -- it'd be a political game-changer.

"Most workers think stagnant wages mean their employer is paying them less," he writes. "They don't know that the main reason for stagnant wages is that their wage increases are going to pay for their health insurance premiums."

Over the past 30 years, economic growth hasn't made its way into most working people's paychecks. But -- and this is key -- the amount businesses have to pay for an hour of work has increased.
In a column debunking the industry's "propaganda," syndicated columnist Froma Harrop dispatched the spin with ease:

What about freedom to choose providers and treatments? Well, private insurance also sets rules on what it will cover and typically provides lists of preferred doctors and hospitals. If your plan lets you go out of the network, you have to pay extra for the privilege. Nothing wrong with that, but we must drop the romantic notion that private coverage affords total freedom at popular prices.

And while the whole point of a public option is to compete with private insurers -- using the same efficiencies and economies of scale that big corporations employ all the time to cut costs -- the notion that a public option would kill off private insurance is nonsense.

Harrop points out that, "Contrary to the propaganda, a government plan doesn't tell you what you can have. It tells you what it will pay for. You can buy whatever you want with your own money. And any well-designed plan would allow people to purchase private insurance to cover things the government plan doesn't."

In France, where they have a "single-payer" system, 9 out of 10 people buy supplemental insurance from the private sector.
It's a hybrid plan -- somewhere between the fractured for-profit insurance we have now and the kinds of health care systems the citizens of other advanced countries have. And while single-payer advocates (like myself) believe that creating a tax-financed universal insurance system that offers basic care to everyone is the cleanest, most straightforward way of financing health care (and has the greatest potential for savings), the thinking behind the hybrid plan is that it's vitally important to allow those who enjoy their current insurance to hold onto it.

Those who do would benefit from bringing health spending in line with overall economic growth. Getting a hold of rising health care costs frees up money for other priorities -- we currently pay more to Big Health than we spend educating our children, building roads or eating.

And contrary to the spin, getting the uninsured covered will cost less, over the long haul, than leaving them without care. Each and every one of us who has insurance is already spending almost a $1,000 per year to subsidize emergency care (and various unpaid hospital bills) for the uninsured, according to the National Coalition on Health Care.

And even discounting the moral questions of leaving people living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world to fend for themselves, the economics make no sense -- it's far cheaper to treat someone for a cold in a doctor's office than in the ER. It's far cheaper to prevent an illness than it is to treat it.

Read it all at AlterNet

No comments:

Post a Comment