The Economist Call for Partially-Socialized Medicine

This week, the writers at The Economist offer up some strong words about the state of America's healthcare system and offer some big government solutions that might surprise the free-marketeers who tend to read the magazine.

America's health system is unlike any other. The United States spends 16% of its GDP on health, around twice the rich-country average, equivalent to $6,280 for every American each year. Yet it is the only rich country that does not guarantee universal health coverage. Thanks to an accident of history, most Americans receive health insurance through their employer, with the government picking up the bill for the poor (through Medicaid) and the elderly (Medicare).


In the longer term, America, like this adamantly pro-market newspaper, may have no choice other than to accept a more overtly European-style system. In such a scheme, the government would pay for a mandated insurance system, but leave the provision of care to a mix of public and private providers. Rather than copying Europe's distorting payroll taxes, the basic insurance package would be paid for directly by government, though that cash might be raised by a "hypothecated" tax which would make the cost of health care more evident. The amount of cash given to insurers would take account of individual health risks, thus reducing insurers' incentives to compete by taking only the healthiest patients. [emphasis added]

If the editors of the self-proclaimed "adamantly pro-market newspaper" are ready to start talking about a European-style healthcare system -- albeit a hybrid system with certain market aspects -- why are the Democrats still afraid to offer up real ideas to help grant coverage to America's 46 million uninsured?

I understand that many current Democratic members of Congress were in Washington in 1993-1994 -- the last time the Party tried in earnest to fix the healthcare system -- and still harbor bad memories from the political fallout that resulted from the failed Clinton healthcare program. It's quite possible that many of them believe that they would have remained in the majority, perhaps even until today, had it not been for that tactical disaster. If only the party had maintained the safe rout, not attempting any sweeping changes...

This line of thinking is of particular detriment to the party, however. Playing it safe does not win elections, at least for a party in the minority. The Democrats cannot cede responsibility for fixing America's healthcare problems to President Bush and the Republicans. First, the GOP is calling for a plan that would only exacerbate the problem (even the folks at The Economist say as much). Second, by shirking their responsibility to offer real solutions to the very real heathcare problem in this country, the Democrats run the risk of being viewed as a party devoid of ideas and vision.

Do the Democrats need to call for a socialized system of healthcare, such as the one used in Canada and elsewhere? No. But they must offer some solution to the problem, whether it is a centrally-administered federal program, a hybrid system (such as the one advocated by The Economist), a series of 50 interlocking statewide systems subsidized by the federal government or whatever.

please take a look at the attached poll in the extended entry

Ah, yes, the poll

Tags: Healthcare (all tags)




Democrats ran on healthcare in 2004, at least in part.  Here's John Kerry's old page on it and it talks about covering 95% of Americans and all children.  Howard Dean was the same.  I remember him defending himself saying that we needed to get everybody covered first and then we can talk about how to fix the system.

I don't doubt we will run on it again in 2008, and to the extent we can, in 2006.  Right now putting forward a comprehensive, detailed health care plan is the same as putting forward a comprehensive, detailed plan for Iraq: we don't have the influence to do anything about it.  We're the opposition party, they're the governing party.

I don't see any evidence that the party is afraid to take on health care.  If anything it's probably one of our winning issues.

by Gg 2006-01-28 09:11AM | 0 recs
Call it what it is Universal Healthcare

I think describing universal healthcare plan as socialized medicine is mistaken for several reasons:

1. Its vague.

  1. Its not particularly accurate.
  2. The phrase is used to portray reasonable proposals as unreasonable and extreme through the use of misleading rhetoric.
  3. There is no real advantage to using the term.
  4. Universal healthcare is used by the most respected in the field of health care policy such as the Institute of Medicine.

Why not call it what it is? Universal Healthcare.  There are many options to consider and virtually none of them are what you would call socialism.  The phrase lends itself to unwarranted scare tactics since most Americans dont even understand what real socialism is in the first place, other than its BAD.

Dont help those who are already going to do all they can to mislead the public by using their own rhetoric.

by Catch 22 2006-01-28 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Call it what it is Universal Healthcare

Agreed.  I don't think that the US will ever have a single payer system like Canada and Europe b/c it difficult to sell here.  However, Germany, Japan and Switzerland amongst others get to universal coverage through an employer mandated basic insurance package with the government covering those not in the workforce.  

Having been involved in the 1993-94 effort, I have been extremely cautious about making this a part of the Dem platform.  However, I am evolving closer to Scott's view.

by John Mills 2006-01-28 10:06AM | 0 recs
Marketing Universal Healthcare

The Democrats should call for a system of universal healthcare.  We need much better marketing than we had with the Clinton health care debacle.  The Repugs and their friends, the health insurance industry thugs, will try to scare people about "government run healthcare".   We need our "scare" message, difference being that ours will be the truth.  We need studies on how the uninsured will continue to expand since the costs of the broken system are too large for employers to continue to bear.

The gist of the message should be unless we junk the old system, only the rich will have access to care in 10 years.  The Repugs will counter will have the best health care system in the world.  Instead of arguing this point, we agree but only if you are millionaire.

Coupled with finding the stories of insured Americans who have been egregiously denied care by their insurers (they shouldn't be hard to find), we can build a compelling message.

by Monkey In Chief 2006-01-28 10:06AM | 0 recs
Don't Call It Socialized Medicine

I just saw the poll.  Socialized medicine is a Repub term. The Dems have always called it universal access or universal coverage.  Those supporting Medicare for refer to a single payer system.  By calling it socialized medicine, we use their terminology and let them shape the debate.  

by John Mills 2006-01-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Call It Socialized Medicine

You're right about the name.  Doesn't work.  I'm not even sure universal medicine hasn't been trashed around too much to be effective at this point.  Remember, it's all about salesmanship when it comes to present day politics and media.  

by Eric11 2006-01-28 01:00PM | 0 recs
Don't Call It Socialized Medicine

I just saw the poll.  Socialized medicine is a Repub term. The Dems have always called it universal access or universal coverage.  Those supporting Medicare for all refer to a single payer system.  By calling it socialized medicine, we use their terminology and let them shape the debate.  

by John Mills 2006-01-28 10:15AM | 0 recs
The problem is much more than the uninsured,

so the question, "why are the Democrats still afraid to offer up real ideas to help grant coverage to America's 46 million uninsured" misses the political point.

The vast majority of the uninsured don't vote; the majority of the insured who do vote are the essential audience for a Democratic campiagn to improve health care coverage.

The increasing cost, and profit-driven denial of coverage when they most need it, for those who are insured MUST be made part of the campaign for a rational, decent national health care policy.

If the campaign only deals with the unfairness of having so many uninsured, it will fail. Most Americans do not care about the uninsured; they do care about increasing co-pays and the basic insecurity of worrying whether their vampiric insurance company will pay for big-time medical expenses.

And American employers are sick and tired of dealing with health insurance companies. Whether it's the $1,500-a-car cost of health insurance, and the small businesses having to deal with double-digit premium hikes EVERY year, business interests are a target-rich environment for making the campaign for universal health insurance as American as apple pie and baseball.

by devtob 2006-01-28 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: The problem is much more than the uninsured,

Good point about American employers.  American employers, and in particular small business owners, will be key players in developing a winning team to revamp the current system.  Democrats have to appeal to small business owners when making our case for a more universal health care system.  

By appealing to them, you steal a page right out of the Republican playbook.  It also addresses some real problems they face.  

I'm not sure why Democrats don't appeal to small business owners more in the first place.  Republicans believe in a system that only benefits huge organizations, organizations whose main goal is to put small business competitors out of business.  Just a thought.  

by Eric11 2006-01-28 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: The problem is much more than the uninsured,

Good points all around.  Employers are a big key to getting health care reform passed.  If we get them on board, it helps blunt the Repubs argument.

by John Mills 2006-01-28 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: The problem is much more than the uninsured,

I've been reading through the posts to see if anyone mentioned an idea I was thinking of and this is it.

The big corporations who still have employee healthcare plans would love to get rid of them. The small businesses would sigh with relief if they didn't have to worry about offering in-house plans or letting their valued employees go without.

This is the way for the Dems to go. Enlist the small business assoc. and get Ford, GM, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. behind the plan. Have CEO's and business people do commercials for it. The Dems put it in their platform in explicit terms which describe it in a way that shows that it is not a Repug idea that Bush can steal later.

by mpower1952 2006-01-28 03:03PM | 0 recs
Economist Call for Partially-Socialized Medicine

One huge difference between the early 90s and now is that baby boomers are a whole lot older; and for those self-employed, the idea of Uncle Sam's help to alleviate monthly premium of $800 to $1,000 for the healthy sure looks a heck of alot more attractive.

The last go-around, boomers were perfectly content to pay their monthly premium of around $150 to $250.00 and not rock the boat.

Oh yes, what a difference a decade makes!

by notime4lies 2006-01-28 12:52PM | 0 recs
Don't bite

Just a quick note - the Economist's plan is a giveaway to insurance companies, not a good health care plan.  For health care to work you must have single payor insurance for all basic covered services. It doesn't matter so much if public or private provide the actual health care, but the insurance itself must be single payor.  I could go into why, but it's too tiresome - let's just say it's cheaper and it produces better results in almost every metric.

The Economist is just trying to shill for a plan that will actually help private industry more than sick people.  Which, if you take a second to think about it, should be no surprise given the Economist's leanings ever since it was captured by its American readership.

by Ian Welsh 2006-01-28 03:10PM | 0 recs
Bullshit, it was the gun ban, stupid

The HillaryCare healthcare bill is widely blamed -- by those whose interests are served by blaming it -- for the Dems lost majority in 1994.

The REAL reason, as Bill Clinton said in his book, was the assault weapons ban passed and signed into law in SEPTEMBER of 1994.  Rural districts which had always been Democratic left the party into the arms of the GOP.  Trust me (as a GOP voter because of this at the time), it wasn't because of the healthcare bill.  

Lobbyists and special interests groups perpetuate the myth that it was healthcare that did us in.  And the stupid Dems in Washington but into it.  Nowadays even most Republicans are for universal coverage.

by jgarcia 2006-01-28 07:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Bullshit, it was the gun ban, stupid

In fairness, it was a combination of the 1993 budget cuts and tax increases, healthcare and the assaults weapons bill.  The Dems lost seats all over including in the NE, West and midwest where the assault weapons ban was a non-issue.  Don't underestimate the impact of the healthcare issue - it was a major factor.

by John Mills 2006-01-28 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Bullshit, it was the gun ban, stupid

Yah, but the REAL issue that lost us the poor, rural vote, was the gun issue.  Remember, the cities plus the rural areas will give us a majority again.  Most studies show it's easier to win back the rural districts than the exurbs.

by jgarcia 2006-01-28 07:42PM | 0 recs


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