Needed health care reform: Universal health insurance

On Saturday, May 30, The New York Times reported on a joint statement released by Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy and Montana Senator Max Baucus, saying they would work together to find “common ground on health reform legislation.” In their statement, Kennedy, the chair of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Baucus, the chair of the Senate’s Finance Committee, claimed that “reforming the nation’s health care system to cut cost, improve quality and provide affordable coverage remains the top priority on our two committees.”

However, neither Kennedy nor Baucus propose to do the one thing that would accomplish these aims: establish a single-payer health care system. The evidence clearly shows that single-payer systems control health care costs. Every other major capitalist country in the world provides all of its citizens with health care coverage and has some systematic nationwide strategy to keep costs under control. As a result, these countries spend, on average, about half what the United States spends on health care.

And their health is better! The United States has the highest rate of preventable deaths before the age of 75 among rich, industrialized countries. If the United States had the same rate of preventable deaths as the three countries with the lowest rates, more than 100,000 deaths would be prevented each year.

In 2007, a consulting team from McKinsey & Company reported on their analysis of U.S. health spending. They found that the United States spent some $500 billion a year more than would be expected just based on its per capita income. Moreover, this huge discrepancy could not be explained by the poorer health of U.S. citizens. Rather, the difference was the result of higher drug costs, higher profits, and taxes due to a reliance on for-profit health care providers and insurers and higher administrative costs.(1)

The problem of high health care costs boils down to the greed for profits. Let’s take profits out of the picture. Establish a government-run, national health program that runs at cost. Health care is a human right, and it should be provided to all.

1. Accounting for the cost of health care in the United States. McKinsey Global Institute. January 2007.

Monday, June 1st, 2009 at 15:56