by Roland Lindsey
David Frum posted an excellent post on the Bush Economic Legacy over at NewMajority.com. I hope that the Republican leadership reads it.
When you look at the traditional levers of tax policy, interest and inflation rates, there is just not much room to make things any easier on business to create jobs and raise income levels, let alone pay for health care. There are many things we can do to encourage business and wage growth, however. Like fix this odious, job-killing system we have in America called Health Care.
Reforming health insurance alone will not solve the problem of cost. Even if all insurers became non-profits but otherwise performed at the same rate, it would only reduce the cost of health care by 1% of the $2.4 trillion it costs us now. Want to see the data? Check an NPR analysis of the data here. From the article:
To negate this notion, AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it (shown below) on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care.
That may be the case, says Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt, but "whether it's fair or not depends on what it is you want to describe," he says.
"All that statement says is, if you eliminated all our [insurance company] profits, national health spending in America would be 1 percent lower. It has meaning only in that context," Reinhardt says.
Tort reform is not going to bring our costs significantly down. How do I know this? Look at the size of the medical malpractice insurance industry. Not only is the medical malpractice insurance industry doing very well from a profitability point of view, the cost of medical malpractice is at a 30 year low. In fact, in 2008, the total cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums was $10.7 billion. That is less than one half of one percent of the $2.4 trillion we spend on health care. Total payouts from malpractice insurance in 2008? $4.7 billion. There is a study here on tort reform by the CBO from 2004. They did not believe then that it would affect the economics of health care. There is another study undertaken by Americans for Insurance Reform. Same deal, it's just not a significant factor, and honestly should just be taken off of Republican talking points.
Come on, Republicans. We can do much better than this. And the independents, those people who really decide elections… They know whether or not they did better in the last decade or if they did worse. They don’t care what Glenn Beck says, and they don’t care what Keith Olbermann says. They care about their own situation and their own prosperity. And while Republicans do not solve problems for them, they will vote Democrat. It’s the simple truth.
We hear the comparisons to Canada and the UK and Switzerland, and we laugh it off because we say, “Well sure, they may control costs better than we do, but I’d hate to get sick over there!” And then we lay out a lot of reasons why our system is better.
Except the costs of our system are crushing individuals, business, and our economy. And we Republicans are blind to the reality that our “solutions” to the problem are tiny drops in an enormous bucket. Would you prefer the economic growth of the ’80s or the '90s to the economic growth of the '00s? We all would agree that would be preferable. Would you be willing to go back to an '80s standard of Health Care to achieve that?
If the only substantive choice to contain health care costs is to move over to a Single Payer system like Canada (costs 10.6% of GDP), or a Nationalized system like the UK (costs 7.5% of GDP), then we must support the substantive choice. We can cry about losing our liberty and freedom all we want, but do not forget that economic freedom equals real freedom. That personal liberty is not possible without economic liberty. And the trajectory we are on is one that leads to economic slavery.
If I have to choose between continuing economic disaster in this country while the Republicans remain in permanent minority status and waiting 3 months for a doctor visit, I'll take the waiting list.