Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One More Reason That Single-Payer Health Care Looks Likely Now

By Manifesto Joe

I sometimes hate to use the term "unintended consequences," because what comes to mind is those free-market-dogma economists. But sometimes the term is descriptive, and it seems that way now after health care "reform."

I'm staunchly for single-payer, and a new development makes it look more like that was essentially a no-brainer: Corporations are being advised, somewhat subtly, to eventually terminate their health care benefits, cutting employees loose to seek out taxpayer-subsidized health care insurance on their own after the "pools" are available in 2014.

I suppose it wasn't hard to see that one coming. Corporations have a reputation for being amoral money machines, and they didn't acquire that rep for nothing. Tell them any way that they can maximize profits, and they will do it. Walk over someone's grandmother? It's a dirty job; but have faith, they'll find someone who will. If CEO No. 1 won't, rest assured that CEO No. 2 will. It's said to be a legal obligation.

The talk about the end of job-based health care insurance is just beginning. But as soon as it can be done, rest assured that you will see the Fortune 500 forming a line on this one. Here's a link to an early article on this from AP. There are a lot of pros and cons being tossed about now, but just wait ...

Sit back and envision the scenario. Millions upon millions of American workers will be cut loose from their employer-based plans, forced to go with those subsidized plans that will be available starting in 2014. It's just good business, Corporate Rob, the company spokesman, will tell the press. And hey, now we can afford to give our workers a raise instead, so that they can afford to go insurance-shopping on their own.

But then comes the question I and many others have long been asking: Why did we need a middle man in the first place? Private insurers will offer these plans, helped by federal subsidies. Why didn't we just do single-payer in the first place, since it looks like we'll have to go there eventually anyway?

It wasn't, and ultimately won't be, feasible to leave things as they were, with 47 million Americans uninsured. In other countries of the developed world, people have long thought that we were insane to keep on with the status quo as long as we did.

But if it's going to come to this, wouldn't it have been easier just to make Medicare available to everyone, not just people 65 and older?

I can already hear the fretting out there about big government. And I will grant, the federal government doesn't have a reputation for being the most efficient provider of services.

But, insurance companies do? When was the last time you had to deal with one? Oh, I suppose you could call them "efficient," at least when it comes to their own profits. They definitely know how to tell people "no." And then no some more. And no again. And by the way, no. But of course, they never say no to taking people's money.

Now in the works to perhaps hasten this change is the mania to cut the federal deficit. Instead of the obvious -- raising taxes on rich people and big corporations, who have been getting preferential treatment in the system for decades now, anyway -- a certain tax break is being scrutinized.

Tax breaks have long helped employers provide what health insurance benefits that they do. That credit looks to be on the chopping block, with President Obama's deficit commission proposing to limit or eliminate that deduction. Here's a link to the story.

It's like watching the perfect storm forming. In less than a decade, employer-based health insurance may become the exception, not the rule, and millions of workers will be forced to shop for insurance through the "pools." That is, they will do so assuming that the Republican U.S. House and the Tea Party don't find a way to keep Obamacare from being implemented.

I was reluctantly for Obamacare as an alternative to doing nothing. But now the current overhaul looks like it will merely be a sort of midwife for a very troubled pregnancy and delivery.

Single-payer is where this is all headed, and the insurance bastards will fight that to their last breath. When that battle happens, at least the American people may be privileged to see very clearly what this is all about -- the massive profits of a large sector of Corporate America. If it wasn't already clear that these people are nasty little bloodsuckers, it finally will be.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Mycue23 said...

medicare for all is the only way this problem gets fixed. I think we all can realize that it`s the only way that makes fiscal sense. The question becomes will it happen before it becomes an absolute financial neccessity. My guess is that the congress will wait to act until most americans are on the brink of financial ruin due to medical costs.

Jack Jodell said...

Single-payer for ALL! "Nuff said!

Anonymous said...

I continue to be surprised that large and small employers don't already support single payer. It will assure them of a healthy workforce, remove the pressure for them to provide health insurance, and make us more competitive with countries that already have national health care.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be the party pooper, but this article is extraordinarily optimistic. Having followed the U.S. political process closely for three decades, I simply can't fathom where the author of this article is getting his extraordinarily optimistic viewpoint.

Yes, of course, single payer would make sense and offer enormous advantages on many levels for the American nation.

But it's simply never going to happen. The problem is our nation's broken political system.

It's the same broken system that brought us things like the insane "War on Drugs." That fiasco drags on decade after decade, costing the American nation hundreds of billions of dollars.

Any sane, educated American knows that the War on Drugs is a fiasco.

And yet it continues. The broken American political system is unable to even come close to fixing this fiasco.

The current American political system is simply incapable of bringing us single payer. It's so corrupted by money that, really, the only thing it's capable of doing these days is launching reckless wars and allowing the rich & powerful to gorge themselves at the trough of the taxpayer.

In the past, the U.S. system was capable of great things, from Medicare to the Civil Rights Act landing a man on the moon. But those days are long past (and the government that existed in those days is long, long gone).

Not only will we never get single payer, but I would bet the GOP will succeed in rolling back Obama's health care plan. Who's going to stop them? The wimpy, gutless Dems? Don't make me laugh. Yes, we have Obama's veto until 2012---but I'm not at all optimistic that Obama will be re-elected, in the aftermath of the "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling.

Manifesto Joe said...

I've rarely been accused of being an optimist. Actually I regard this viewpoint as being based on pessimism -- that corporations will do exactly this, kick a whole lot of people off job-connected benefits and put them out on their own in those "pools."

Then watch the shit hit the fan. They will have gone well beyond the margins there, into "middle America." The key to this seems to be that conditions are going to have to get grim enough for even the Tea Partiers to become uncomfortable. I think it's probably going to take a lot of years for people to realize what happened, but I suspect that they will. This country had a staunch Republican majority in 1929, and it was absolutely gone in 7 years. It could vanish again, and just as quickly, if enough people become uncomfortable enough.

Cletis Stump said...

Great post, Joe. In terms of efficiency, Medicaire is far more efficiently administered than most insurance providers. Also, I hereby respectfully ask people to access my blog thebookofcletis.blogspot.com/ Take a look at the lyrics to "This Land is Your Land" by Woodie Guthrie. I'll bet you're surprised when you read all the lyrics. Vintage Woodie at the end. Please leave a comment or two. Joe, I like this blog and I'll be back often. Cletis

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Cletis, thanks for stopping by.

Let me suggest that we trade links. I will blogroll you today or tomorrow, with your permission.

JMyste said...

I read an article: "Who's Really in Charge Here" at http://rickmasseyblog.com/. You have to scroll down to read the article. It sounds like it could have been written by you if you were an attorney. To summarize the upshot of things, it basically means that the government is a capitalist machine run by corporations.

Joe, is this something you would agree with or disagree with?


Manifesto Joe said...

Thanks, J, I'll check out the article.

Generally, I would agree that this is how the federal government, and the state and local authorities as well, operate over 90% of the time.

The rare exceptions in our history have been when enough people have become uncomfortable enough with the status quo that the popular will becomes strong enough to prevail.

We've only seen this a few times in our history -- one was when Social Security and the Wagner Labor Relations Act were enacted in 1935. Another was when public accommodations were finally desegregated in 1964. Perhaps the last time it happened was when Congress said a resounding NO to Gerald Ford in early 1975, when he wanted to send U.S. forces back into Vietnam.

I'd say we're overdue for it to happen again, and I think the battleground will be health care. It may take 15-20 years for it to happen, but if corporations start kicking employees off job-based insurance by the millions, an unintended consequence of Obamacare could be to pave the way for a public option. With enough popular outrage, the private insurers might finally stand down and not target key lawmakers for certain defeat if they vote for an expansion of Medicare. In our system, it's the exception, not the rule. But it has indeed happened before. A previous commenter, one more pessimistic than even I am, doesn't believe it possible. We'd better hope it is, one more time.

DayBreak Ventures said...

Single-payer" means that all covered medical expenses are paid from the same source (the government). "Universal" means that everybody is covered. They are not opposites, and a government-funded universal plan *is* a single-payer plan.

Short Term Assisted Living Texas

Manifesto Joe said...

Fine. And your point is ...?