The Economist Call for Partially-Socialized Medicine
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 08:26:50 AM EST
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