The Opposite Of A Bullet
Having health insurance in the US is a lot like eating a gourmet meal while sitting next to a starving person. They could die while you are eating.
Universal Health Care. Here is a different title for that idea: Universal Health Care EQUALS Competitive Advantage (for American Business... for the American People). I am tired of waiting. I am tired of hearing talk about incremental steps. It is time to simply make the case to the people, tell them what they get and ask them to support health care for everyone. Yes, I am completely advocating that every American resident be added to the Medicare rolls. Its a proven system, cost effective and they don't even have a way to tell your doctor how to treat you.
Most economists could probably agree on at least one result of granting universal access to health care: we would have to build more health care infrastructure. What can you do with infrastructure? Sell the extra capacity on the world market. Health Care is one of the rare markets where high value American know-how is still worth the money on the world market. I think that we should immediately implement universal coverage because our people are sick and our businesses need profits.
How do we pay for it? Any way we can, though a good candidate is to make cuts in military spending. Other than our citizens existing in harm's way, military spending is largely hardware products whose use includes bad consequences for someone in another country. Why are we surprised that selling bullets sometimes results in guns being pointed back in our direction? Health care is a knowledge and services product with great export possibilities and few negatives for the recipient who can also be in another country. When you have a paying customer in another country, it's absolutely correct to label the product an export. In terms of simple human affect, health care is pretty close to the opposite of a bullet. Doesn't healing sound much more like the American people than killing?
At home in the US, providing health care to our citizens benefits our own economy tremendously. Healthy people are more productive workers, sick people can't work and sick people without treatment might never work because of this fact: 18,000 to 22,000 die each year because they are uninsured. Meanwhile, as if dying weren't a high enough price, we squander talent by not creating high skill jobs that would mean employing more people at wages that have disposable income. That larger disposable income means a larger consumer economy. Universal health also removes a big cost burden for business. It leverages all of our businesses' efforts to compete globally. Even very large corporations like GM and Wal-Mart are now asking to be relieved of the cost of health care--even if it means they must pay new taxes.
Will people lose what they have now? Yes, definitely, and it's time to get over it because switching from HMOs isn't really going to be very painful. The system that we have now leaves millions with excruciating choices and we can choose to end that pain. There are 47 million without insurance in the US--living with health insurance in the US is a lot like eating a gourmet meal while sitting next to a starving person. They could die while you are eating. Everyone loses what they have now--and they gain new access to a stable existing system, in the Medicare case: coverage that includes independent doctors making the health decisions in a system of industry accepted cost controls. Medicare has exactly ZERO management of doctors, but they do effectively control costs.
Insurance companies are still likely to still see a lot of profits because they would decrease their loss exposure. And since universal coverage would have gaps, that would create new opportunities for them. They have the tools and skills to be large providers of services in the claims processing area but also in the higher profit area of supplemental insurance. Also, many insurers have adopted HMO practices, which means that they own hospitals and clinics. 47 million new customers for those hospitals and clinics seems likely to grow their business. For non-insurance businesses, employer paid health insurance (in the form of supplemental coverage) can once again be a benefit offered by businesses to compete for talent. This contrasts starkly with health care costs being a reason to go out of business or ship jobs overseas.
In a global economy, one of our nation's better choices for ''export products'' is health care. In treating the world's health problems, our own health industry's skills, technologies and business practices get better. The US health industry would become better at keeping us at home healthy. And as a business case, health care is a long term prospect--''doctoring'' as an industry is growing worldwide and people aren't going to stop getting sick any time soon. In addition to health services, who's going to train all the doctors? How many jobs does a Medical University create? And how much good will?
When you consider our current foreign policy, which is ''executed'' largely through military means (and therefore through military spending), it is a net economic loss for the country--very little profit returns to the US for each bomb or bullet that we send abroad. If we are looking for return on investment, Health Care is, again: the opposite of a bullet. Real profits would come to the US from health care. And a likely affect in the "global market" is that few people in foreign lands are ever going to want to bomb us after "we" take out his auntie's appendix. There are two big issues that nay-sayers bring up around universal health care plans: bureaucracy and patient choice. Here's an old salesman's answer to that objection: "When was the last time your HMO's bureaucracy gave you a real choice?"