A Lesson From Canada (and Detroit) : Single Payer Health Care is Way to Go

‘Canada pays LESS for health care per person than the US — with far better results in terms of general wellness of the population.’
By Tommie Sue Montgomery
/ The Rag Blog / December 13, 2008

See ‘If G.M. Were a Canadian Company It Wouldn’t Be Asking for Help’ by Dean Baker, and ‘Obama and Daschle should opt for single-payer’ by Rose Ann DeMoro, Below.

I have no idea where you are on the health care issue but I can tell you that the first article is accurate, at least in so far as Canadian companies do NOT have the burden of health care costs. More important, Canada pays LESS for health care per person than the US — with far better results in terms of general wellness of the population. In fact, the US has a partial single-payer system: Medicare.

Living in Canada for the last 7.5 years, I can tell you that the single-payer system is the only rational way to go. This is NOT “socialized medicine.” We have our choice of doctors, including specialists; while there is often a waiting list — especially in high-population southern Ontario — for elective care, there is NEVER a wait for critical care.

Charles, my stepson, who had a heart transplant last May, is our No. 1 example. He has never had to wait for anything. His care, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has cost, over the last four years (since diagnosis) at least a million dollars. The entire family, put together, could not have paid this. Nor did we have to deal with insurance companies with the power to decide what care would be paid for. Decisions regarding care were made by his doctors. His anti-rejection drugs are also covered, with a deductible calculated on income. We have never seen a bill and never will.

Yes, we pay higher taxes and in Ontario we pay an additional $800/year “health tax.” But we see a doctor when we need one; we do not have to rely on emergency rooms for non-critical care; we get a physical once a year with all the tests the doc feels we need; eye exam every 2 years; and now that we’re over 65, we pay the first $100 for our prescriptions each year; the rest is covered. If I wanted to move back to the states (I don’t), I could not do so at this point because I could not afford the supplemental health insurance—and I am still quite healthy.

Below is an article and a call to action.

If G.M. Were a Canadian Company It Wouldn’t Be Asking for Help
By Dean Baker / December 11, 2008

The Detroit automakers have made many mistaken business decisions that have been important factors contributing to their current crisis. However, they are not responsible for some of the factors that have brought them to the brink of bankruptcy.

Most obviously, they are not responsible for the collapse of the housing bubble and the subsequent loss of more than $15 trillion in housing and stock wealth. This falloff in wealth has sent consumption plummeting. The auto industry has been especially hard hit, with sales falling by more than 30 percent year over year in the last two months.

The Big Three are also not responsible for the broken U.S. health care system. If we paid the same amount for health care as Canada, G.M. would have accumulated an additional $22 billion in profits over the last decade.

That would be the savings if we assumed that General Motor’s health care expenditures were reduced by roughly 48 percent to be in line with expenses in Canada. Of course, not all the savings in this counterfactual would have gone to profits. Some of it would have gone to workers in the form of higher wages or to consumers in the form of lower car prices.

On the other hand, G.M. is also picking up the tab for many spouses and dependent children. It would not have to pay these health care expenses in a Canadian type system. So the $22 billion figure is probably not a bad first approximation of the additional money that G.M. might have today if the United States had a more efficient health care system.

Even with these additional profits G.M. and the other domestic manufacturers would still face serious problems. They have made some bad choices in betting their future on SUVs and other low-mileage vehicles. They also have lagged foreign manufacturers in producing high quality, reliable cars.

But the real reason that Big Three are on their deathbeds right now is the economic crisis created by the Wall Street crew and their friends in Washington. It will be tragic if the people of the Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio are made to suffer through a depression because of the failed financial dealings of the Wall Street crew.

This situation is made even worse by virtue of the fact that most of the Wall Street executives who are directly responsible for this disaster are still quite wealthy, in large part because of the generosity of Congress and the Bush administration. While they demanded that the auto manufacturers produce plans for returning to profitability in exchange for providing loans, no similar conditions were imposed on Citigroup and the rest of the Wall Street gang.

As the autoworkers at the Big Three look at their last paychecks before an indeterminate period of unemployment, they should think about the portion deducted for income taxes. With this money, they have helped to ensure that Robert Rubin and other Wall Street types continue to enjoy pay packages in the millions or even tens of millions of dollars.

Happy Holidays!

[Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer ( www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, “Beat the Press,” where he discusses the media’s coverage of economic issues. You can find it at the American Prospect’s website.]

Source / Talking Points Memo

Obama and Daschle should opt for single-payer
By Rose Ann DeMoro / December 11, 2008

Barack Obama needs to make good on his campaign pledge to reform health care. It is not enough to throw the issue off to former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Daschle says he wants to hear from us, the American people, on this issue. So we should oblige him.

Obama and Daschle have a choice: Rely on a private insurance-based plan that does little to mitigate the escalating health care crisis, or solve the problem once and for all and adopt universal, single-payer health care.

Many in Congress, the media, conservative think tanks and some advocacy groups — led by the Service Employees International Union and its business allies — are stumping for piecemeal changes.

Such a path would perpetuate the crisis and deal a cruel blow to the hopes of Americans for real reform. Those in Congress and liberal policy organizations who are embracing caution or promoting more insurance, not more care, are playing a risky game. It could jeopardize the health security of tens of millions of Americans and, in the process, fatally erode public support for the Obama administration.

Hardly a day passes without fresh signs of the health-care implosion.

Just days after the election, the New York Times reported a sharp increase in cost-shifting in employer-paid health plans, with more employers pushing high deductible plans that typically cost workers thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket payments.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal reported a huge spike in health care premiums for small businesses, which prompted many to raise deductibles or cut coverage.

The consequences are chillingly apparent. In October, the Washington Post cited a study that found one-fourth of Americans are skipping doctors’ visits, and 10 percent could not take their child to the doctor because of cost.

That same month, USA Today reported that one in eight patients with advanced cancer turn down recommended treatment because of the bills.

America is falling embarrassingly behind.

A study by the Commonwealth Fund in November compared adults with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, in seven major industrialized countries. A stunning 54 percent of the American respondents said they were likely to go without recommended care, compared to just 7 percent of chronically ill patients in the Netherlands. Over 40 percent of the Americans spent more than $1,000 on medical bills, compared to just 4 percent of British and 5 percent of French patients.

If we adopted a universal, single-payer system like these European countries, or if we simply expanded Medicare to all Americans, we would rectify this problem.

The need is urgent. Today 46 million Americans are without health care.

Millions more are at risk of losing it during this recession. And huge numbers of Americans with insurance can’t afford the cost hikes.

At some point, our government must stop subsidizing these private companies and start investing in the American people.

The time to do so is now.

The best way to get it done is to guarantee all Americans health care in a single-payer system.

Tell Obama and Daschle to support improved Medicare for all.

[Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director of the 85,000-member California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.]

Source / The Progressive

Thanks to Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte / The Rag Blog

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