In what strikes me as the greatest combination since chocolate met peanut butter, it makes nothing but dollars and sense for clever state governments to shift to a single-payer state healthcare system as the key driver for attracting business to their struggling domains.
Ungar goes on to explain how single payer would benefit businesses, especially small businesses, by reducing labor costs and making them more competitive with foreign companies. He implores conservative state legislators to drop their ideological (and I would add, irrational) fear of creeping Communism, and be open to an idea that would spark economic prosperity. These legislators should listen.
But in America, ideology often trumps common sense – especially when that ideology provides some people a lot of money and power. Since the business community is so powerful here in America, it’s frustrating that more small businesses and corporations don’t join the Medicare-for-all movement. Businesses would rather not shell out the increasingly high cost of health care benefits for their employees. But you don’t see many businesses begging the government to take over the responsibility. You don’t see many of them using their powerful lobbyists to persuade conservative lawmakers to vote in favor of a public healthcare system. Instead, many businesses prefer to shove more and more of the costs onto their employees. Or they drop coverage altogether and create more uninsured people, which ends up shoving the costs onto taxpayers.
In America, anything that smacks of the dreaded “S-word” is to be automatically dismissed. In America, government is bad; privatization and profit are good. People are all forced to play the free-market game, even when it doesn’t make sense. If businesses can’t or won’t provide health coverage, then Americans should purchase private insurance in the open market (the more deregulated, the better), or they can just go without. A public healthcare system that will actually cover everyone and save money continues to be a non-starter. I hope more positive articles about single payer in the business press can change these outdated attitudes.
By Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH and David Himmelstein, MD
CUNY School of Public Health, Social Research, Fall 2011
So while the American people want an expanded and improved Medicare for All — that is, a single-payer system — corporations dead-set against single-payer reform have come to dictate the agendas of both political parties. Hence, the only way to win national health insurance is to build a popular movement to counter corporate power.
This brief primer (9 short pages plus references) on Healthcare Reform 2.0 will provide little new information for those who have followed the research and educational efforts of the leadership of Physicians for a National Health Program. Nevertheless, it should be downloaded to be used as an advocacy piece to explain to others why Healthcare Reform 1.0 (Affordable Care Act) will remain a failure, and why we have to move on to Healthcare Reform 2.0 (expanded and improved Medicare for All). By distributing this, electronically or in hard copy, you can become a part of the popular movement to counter corporate power.
One comment heard estimated that those firms were selling steel products at a hefty percentage less than BIW could manage. If that is true, we can think of one major cost of doing business that those Canadian firms are not paying — employee health insurance. Of course, the reason is that unlike the United States, most industrialized nations have a health care system that is mostly or wholly funded by the government.
For all their grousing about taxes and environmental and other regulations, pro-business conservatives rarely complain about the huge cost of our health care system — the world’s most expensive — and the fact it is still dominated by private, for-profit insurance firms. And when a single-payer, Medicare-style system is proposed, they rail against that — contending it would be more costly.
But what is the cost of doing business for U.S. firms competing in ruthless global markets, in which foreign companies either have few or no obligations toward employee insurance and/or their workers are paid far less than the average American? Single-payer systems are designed and operated by governments, made up of human beings, and therefore they are not perfect. But in better controlling health care and drug costs, reducing paperwork and keeping profit margins of any private entities within the sanity range, they are far superior.
And they provide a boost to economic development here by dramatically lowering the cost of doing business.
Vermont’s governor, two U.S. senators and members of the state legislature firmly support single payer. Yet, the state, like any other effort to transform the status quo, will still face ferocious opposition from business interests. This, despite the fact that many companies, particularly smaller ones, are dealing with skyrocketing health insurance costs. This editorial contends that our profit-driven healthcare system is undermining the competitiveness of American businesses, with the casualties being companies like Bennington Iron Works and the employees that will be laid off.
There are a lot of good reasons why businesses should support single payer. So why do American corporations fight against shifting the responsibility – and burden – of providing health care from employers to the government, when this will save them money? In short, ideology. According to the Left Business Observer, some business executives don’t want to be seen publicly supporting single payer out of fear of upsetting the conservative orthodoxy that values the private, free market over the government. And, they don’t want to abandon their comrades in the insurance industry. But there’s a more insidious factor at play:
Employers like it when workers feel insecure. Fear of losing health coverage makes workers less willing to strike or resist pay cuts or speedup.
Making workers insecure gives employers even more control over their employees and therefore, the rest of the populace. When unhappy workers can’t leave their jobs out of fear of losing their health insurance, that closes off job opportunities that otherwise might have opened up for the millions of unemployed. And when unhappy workers who are entrepreneurial can’t leave their jobs to start new businesses, that prevents new jobs from being generated.
So it is for this reason why business interests rarely complain about the high cost of our for-profit healthcare system. They really like the fact that they can control people’s lives. And competition from universal healthcare countries like Canada isn’t so much an issue for them as American workers who just might have better and more innovative product ideas. Best to keep those workers on a short leash. And it’s not just workers corporations want to keep in line. Profit-driven health care hurts small mom-and-pops more than large companies. Taking the burden of providing employee health coverage off small businesses would allow them to invest in and grow their companies. That’s a real competitive threat to Big Business.
Canada’s single payer system doesn’t present a huge competitive disadvantage for many large American corporations. These corporations are still raking in billions in profits. When health insurance costs go up, these corporations simply shove more of the financial responsibility onto their employees by taking the costs out of wages. It’s small businesses that are having difficulty competing against large corporations and firms in countries with national health insurance. So it’s small businesses and ordinary citizens who are paying the terrible price for this unfair healthcare system.
To sum up, profit-driven health care is not only unfair and expensive, it makes our society less egalitarian and less democratic. It means less freedom for workers. A single payer system, like the one for California outlined in State Sen. Mark Leno’s bill SB 810, would make our workplaces more democratic. It will result in healthier and happier employees, and better productivity for companies. It will help small companies compete with large corporations. The good news is that there are companies who recognize that single payer is good for business and are willing to speak out in favor of it. More companies should follow their lead.
While health insurance companies bleed their customers dry, drug companies are picking taxpayers’ pockets. And they can get away with gouging since the government can’t negotiate drug prices. Fortunately, financial penalties against drug companies for fraudulent practices have increased recently. The dean of consumer rights, Ralph Nader, writes about a Public Citizen report by Dr. Sidney Wolfe, that analyzes prosecutions of drug companies under the Federal False Claims Act:
Dr. Wolfe’s team compiled a total of 165 federal and state settlements since 1991 totaling $19.8 billion in penalties. A key finding is that the drug industry’s penalties under the Federal False Claims Act exceed even those assessed against the overcharging defense industry for fraud.
Before we become overly impressed with the cumulative amount of the penalties, specialists in corporate crime law enforcement believe that adding more federal cops on the corporate crime beat, backed by a determined law and order Justice Department with White House backing, would have greatly increased the number of cases and imposition of penalties on these drug industry giants.
Nonetheless, Dr. Wolfe’s study shows that the pace of penalties has picked up over the past five years. This is due to “a combination of increased violations by companies and increased law enforcement on the part of federal and state governments,” says the report.
Still, the paltry fines imposed on drug companies don’t put much of a dent in their profits, and therefore, aren’t much of a deterrent. Wolfe says only jail time for executives would stop the illegal behavior. Well, of course! If you or I stole as little as $10, we’d swiftly be thrown in the slammer. But corporate executives continue to get a pass because they can afford to buy off corrupt politicians who will write laws favoring them. So, when are we finally going to see some drug company fat cats do the perp walk? Hopefully sooner, rather than later.