Universal healthcare is about the best thing that could happen for capitalism

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 3, 2021, 8:46 PM | comments: 0

The economic recovery is coming on strong right now as we attempt to emerge from the pandemic here in the US, but it's an uneven recovery with seemingly contradicting signals. But if surviving the most serious health crisis in a hundred years wasn't reason enough to look at the issue of how healthcare is paid for in the US, then looking at all of the ways it would strengthen our capitalist system is. Yes, I'm writing about this again.

But socialism! they say. I've covered that, and it's ridiculous to single out healthcare, the one thing paid for by most of the developed world outside of the US by government, as something materially different from safety services, schools, military, etc. Read that rant if you're stuck there.

Here's the problem: A lack of access to healthcare, or more specifically the ability to pay for it, bankrupts people, it causes them to not seek preventative care, and these poorer outcomes are a financial drag on society in every way. From the perspective of employers, they would rather not be in the business of providing health insurance at all. Even if they don't meaningfully subsidize it, it still costs them time and money to administer, and they would rather keep people at a part-time level and not have that expense (this is certainly aggravating the labor shortage right now).

And how many people simply couldn't risk not having health insurance, so they don't attempt to start a small business, or participate in a gig economy? Right here, that's me. I have, three times in my life, been in a position where I could try to spin up a legitimate business, and sustain that for 18 months easily, but I've got a family with needs. Simon's medications alone cost $100 per month, and that's after the insurance. It would be in the hundreds without insurance. It's prohibitively expensive for individuals to buy insurance without a group, unless you're poor enough to qualify for big subsides under the ACA.

Absolutely no one likes working with health insurance companies. Employers hate it, doctors hate it, and it certainly sucks as an individual. Even in the best possible scenario, where the employer pays for it entirely and there are no deductibles or co-pays (my situation when I worked at Microsoft a decade ago), dealing with the billing and unsettled charges is a constant shit show. And then I worked for an insurance company, and saw the inefficiency and waste up close. These companies add no value.

Does this mean that insurance companies would largely go out of business? Probably. Does it have to be paid for? Yes, but the per capita cost under the current system is the highest in the world, 50% higher than second place (Switzerland) and more than twice what third place Norway spends. It can't be worse or less efficient. We spend 2.5x what the UK does, and we would theoretically have the advantage of economy of scale for our own national health service. Ask someone in Norway if they would like to abandon their healthcare system and adopt ours. No seriously, I have, they think we're fucking nuts.

I don't know what the path is, but the current path sucks. Put away all of this ideological bullshit about your freedom and government overreach, because right now, you're owned by the system and getting nothing for it with lower life expectancy (we rank 40th in the world... USA! USA!) and our infant mortality rates are more than twice of those in the aforementioned Sweden and Norway.


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