Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fred Barnes Makes Case for Single Payer

healthcare I never thought I’d be saying thanks to Fred Barnes, but, hey, life is full of surprises. I’d pretty much given up on single payer health insurance for the foreseeable future, but Fred Barnes has given me new hope in his article, The Liberal Dream Agenda.

Health care. President Obama is fond of saying his plan allows people to choose between the health insurance they get through their employer and a government program currently limited to federal workers. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? It's not. Rather, it's the path to a single-payer health care system--the kind Obama has said he prefers but isn't actually proposing.

His program would have the distinct advantage of not having to make a profit. So it would always be able to offer greater benefits at lower cost (with taxpayers taking up the slack when it lost money). Businesses would have an incentive to increase co-pays and trim benefits and, in effect, encourage employees to switch plans. And if employer-paid benefits are taxed, as administration officials have suggested, the incentive steering workers to the government program will be irresistible.
(Emphasis mine)

This is exactly what we’ve been saying like forever. A layer of profit in between the health care provider and consumer is just driving costs up with no real benefit to society as a whole. Now, no liberal that I know of wants to see employer-paid benefits taxed. That would be a huge hit for employees who get benefits now, and one that most us couldn’t afford, but if it were a single payer system, with all of us paying into it through progressive taxation, that’d be peachy.

"There won't be any private sector [in health insurance]," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says, should government-financed insurance be available to everyone. "It's a fast track to single payer." There's an additional fear. The stimulus bill set aside $1.1 billion to research and compare medical treatments and drugs, raising the prospect that government programs would pay for some treatments and medicines but not others and thus open the door to rationing.

“…a fast track to single payer.” Your mouth to God’s ears, Senator. Now, about that rationing. Does he mean a situation like my friend (and boss) ran into a week or so ago? Her doctor thought she should have an MRI before he went on to treat a painful condition she’s developed. It’s in the area of the neck and doctors like to be sure before messing with the neck or spine. Things can go wrong if you’re just kind of guessing and we have these amazing tests now and everything.  Her insurance company said “No” to the MRI. She can fight it and she might win. But for now, no MRI. And she chose the insurance plan, of the ones we offer, that comes with higher co-pays for her, because it covers more and is accepted by more health care providers. That plan costs our organization over $1600 per month for a family plan. Less, of course, for singles and for couples, but still not affordable by middle class people. And that’s the group rate. So, it seems to me that what we’re doing is paying outrageous sums of money for something that, in effect, is not one bit better than rationed care.

It’s not every day that you find such a compelling case for a liberal agenda item at the Weekly Standard, but this makes up for a lot.


  1. I'm still hoping the single payer plan makes it through. Is Rep. Conyers bill still floating around?

  2. I don't know, but I don't think it's going to happen right now. But I do think Barnes has it sort of right for once. I think that the president also believes that if a good public plan is made available it is, in fact, the first step toward a single payer system. Difference is, we'd think that was a good thing.

  3. Bravo.

    I've been uninsured for over ten years now... Waiting and hoping not to be ill - and that someone will get some guts to change things.

  4. Its difficult to comment since I am based in the UK although I have a brother in NewYork who echoes your views exactly.

  5. I hope that things change soon, Patrice. I think they will because they have to. I just don't know how much, how fast.