Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
February 21, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Truthdig Bazaar
Retirement Without Borders

Retirement Without Borders

Barry Golson (Author), Thia Golson and the Expert Expats (Contributor)

Escape From Camp 14

Escape From Camp 14

By Blaine Harden

more items

Email this item Print this item

At Last, Accepting Some Clues From Across the Pond

Posted on Feb 25, 2009
Flickr / Foraggio Fotographic

By Joe Conason

At the brink of global ruin, many Americans suddenly seem willing to consider sensible ideas that were always deemed unthinkable, and to reject foolish notions that were once deemed brilliant. Soon we may be mature enough to observe how other developed countries address problems that have baffled us for generations.

Nationalizing major banks, temporarily at least, is a radical notion that today looks far more prudent than handing over hundreds of billions of additional dollars to the clowns and crooks who wrecked the financial system. Privatizing Social Security, which meant turning over another trillion dollars to the Wall Street geniuses whose reckless greed drove us into penury, no longer appears so alluring. Even a few repentant right-wingers—notably including Alan Greenspan, the former “maestro” of money—now gaze dolefully into the mirror and wonder where they went so wrong. (Here’s a hint: The trouble began during those lonely evenings spent perusing the addled works of Ayn Rand.)

So as President Obama convened his “fiscal responsibility summit” and then delivered his first address to Congress, the voices of free-market fundamentalism were muted in Washington, if not on cable television. The anticipated onslaught against Social Security from those claiming to represent future generations did not materialize at the Obama summit—and neither did the presidential capitulation that liberals had feared. Instead, the White House wonks insisted on discussing the actual threat to America’s future solvency, namely the swelling price of health care for the retiring generation of baby boomers and its effect on Medicare and Medicaid.

The problem with these programs, which have done so much to improve the health of America’s poor and elderly, is neither the size of the boomer cohort nor even that generation’s impending geezerhood. The problem is the rate of cost increase per beneficiary, according to a landmark study released two years ago by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (and described with admirable clarity by Ezra Klein on the American Prospect Web site on Feb. 23).

Respected across the political spectrum for the accuracy and relevance of its data, that liberal think tank happens to be the former professional home of Peter Orszag, the Obama administration’s budget director. The center’s insights into federal spending will inform policy at the highest level—which means that reforming the way we finance and deliver medicine will be central to this government’s fiscal planning. Although there are many other matters that must be addressed if we are ever to regain control of deficits when economic growth resumes—from the abuse of tax shelters by the super-rich to the absurd rip-offs by military contractors—the biggest money is in the health sector.

But how can we cope with rising costs when we have yet to achieve the basic national goal of providing universal coverage? Perhaps now Americans will look abroad and notice that other countries provide quality care to all of their citizens, spending less than half what we do and achieving better outcomes.

In the coming decades, European countries, as well as Canada and Japan, will be able to invest their resources in energy and education, while we try to figure out how to borrow enough to keep our hospitals open. What they all have in common is that they do not devote a huge proportion of their health spending to the profits of insurance companies—and they negotiate budgets with health providers, such as pharmaceutical companies.

The superior performance of these alternatives is at long last coming to the attention of the mainstream media, which has so long ignored it.

As always, Congress will resist change on behalf of the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies, preferring to do nothing. But perhaps in the coming years the public will realize that such feckless politicians should be told to go do nothing somewhere else.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

      © 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.


Square, Site wide

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By yours truly, March 3, 2009 at 11:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Privatized Health Care Is An Oxymoron

“Based on?”


Report this

By wildflower, March 2, 2009 at 12:00 am Link to this comment

In regard to Conason’s point about the “rate of cost increase” identified in the the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study, I see that Obama’s administrative aides have release some goals:

“Obama has endorsed eight guiding principles for health reform, the White House officials said on the conference call. They stressed that they intend to work with lawmakers and other stakeholders on how to accomplish the goals, but the principles will lay down a marker for any congressional plan”

Universal, everybody in, nobody out
Portable, not tied to your job, if you even have one
Maintaining choice of doctor and insurance
Ensuring affordable coverage
Protecting Americans financial health
Investing in prevention and wellness
Improving patient safety and quality of care
Fiscally responsible and sustainable

“There’s only one problem. Virtually all the proposals being bandied about in various Congressional committees—and the administration made it clear this week they will let Congress figure out the details—fail to meet the test of those “8 keys.”

“With one important exception—single payer reform, or expanding and updating Medicare to cover everyone. One bill, however, does succeed in all eight areas. That is HR 676, the U.S. National Health Care Act by Rep. John Conyers, which also happens to be the one reform that has a broad, national grassroots constituency led by nurses, doctors, patients, and health care activists.”

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

Big B:


So your solution is what then? Just give the current for profit medical system a few more decades to work out it’s kinks? ...

If you didn’t read what I wrote the first time, the prospects of a repeat performance seem unprepossessing.

Report this

By Big B, February 28, 2009 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment


So your solution is what then? Just give the current for profit medical system a few more decades to work out it’s kinks?

Europe nearly collapsed under the weight of rebuilding after 2 world wars and hundreds of years of regional conflicts caused by their leaderships unwillingness to change. But after WWII they finally realized that they could only move forward and truly rebuild if they were able to put past religious and political differences aside and work together for the common good. And just look at what they have done. Through a melding of free markets and responsible socialism, they have now become the leaders of the free world, replacing the dying old US that is currently collapsing under the weight of it’s arrogance, and complete unwillingness to change.

We in the US have never had our moment of truth. We have never stared out over a war blighted landscape and been forced to choose between change or oblivion. Our failing medical care system is a perfect example. Imagine how many more un and underinsured this economy is going to create. how many more will it take for us arrogent and stupid americans to change, 50 million, a hundred, two hundred? our medical system is a reflection of our society as a whole. The best care and all other rewards and advantages are heaped upon the already wealthy. And our system now has been corrupted to the point that it has become prohibitive at best for anyone who isn’t wealthy and connected already to achieve financial success. Like 18th century France we have become a nation a few haves, and a hell of a lot of have-nots. And we all know what eventually became of the haves.

So what’s wrong with being more Euopean?

MLK once said we all came here in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 28, 2009 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

There are so many wonderful things from across the pond—fascism, Communism, anti-Semitism, nationalist and religious bigotry and violence, colonial empires, rigid class structure, starting world wars—America has just missed out.

Once again I find myself wondering why, if so many people were interested in a different model of medical care and insurance, they did not propose to set up cooperative insurance companies and HMOs, where the motivation to improve service and lower costs would arise among the membership and make itself felt through the election of the directors and administrators of the cooperative.

Instead, I see no alternative given but a shift from remote, indifferent corporate bureaucracies to what will probably prove to be an even more remote, even more indifferent governmental bureaucracy.  It is held as a matter of religious belief that this shift will reduce costs, but the particulars are never given.  As things stand now, many millions of Americans are uninsured, partly because of poverty but in many cases because of price resistance.  Moving the medical establishment into the government will simply give it a new power to extract money, that of taxation.  Even the recalcitrant will have to pay.  I do not see why this arrangement will guarantee lower costs.

In any case, the upcoming synthesis of corporate and government bureaucracies, of the profit motive working with the power to tax, seems to guarantee the worst of both worlds.

Report this

By Big B, February 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

We need to, literally, pull off the band-aid in one painful rip. It’s time for Barry to stop pussy-footing around with his eloquent ten cent oratory, and announce that in six months, all insurance carriers and hospitals will be privatized and national medicare will reign. no exceptions.

We need to ask ourselves as americans, are we ready to accept the full responsibility of citizenship that comes with living in a modern 21st century society? If not, then we deserve the coming tribulation.

Report this

By Charlotte Roost, February 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“When President Barack Obama made his quick dash up to Ottawa last week, it’s too bad he didn’t suffer a gastrointestinal attack, or slip on some ice and twist an ankle or something. If he had, he might have had a chance to do what he should have done anyhow: visit a Canadian health clinic.”

Report this

By Brantwood, February 27, 2009 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment

SUCH a great feeling to see that - after 30 years of willful ignorance - writers in every part of the cyber universe are ready to offer evidence that the USA does not have a monopoly on good ideas and a spirit of enterprise. Let me just add here, please, something that’s not centrally relevant to the discussion of health care provision: I’ve been living in France for the last nine months, and I note, every day, that the staples in my stapler and the toilet tissue in my WC are SAVING resources: the toilet paper is about half-an-inch narrower that the paper I’ve been using for the last 40+ years in the States, and the staples are about half the width of the US standard size - but both tissue and staples do the job perfectly. Goodness knows how many tons of paper and of whatever metal is used to make staples are “saved” every year - but it has to be a substantial number. In the USA it would be even larger! Let’s TRY it!

Report this

By wildflower, February 27, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

Re mmadden

“Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told participants at the White House fiscal summit earlier this week that any health care overhaul must be “market-based.” [Bill Redux – M Cocco]

“Months after Rep. Joe Barton’s wife was hired by the JPS Health Network, he voted to delay rules aimed at closing some loopholes in the Medicaid program that he had previously criticized. . . 

“ . . . JPS . . . relied on [Mrs.] Barton to advocate on the proposed Medicaid rules, as well as for other healthcare-funding matters.”

Report this

By csavage, February 27, 2009 at 6:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The other side of the story-not mentioned here or pretty much everywhere else except the WSJ in the mid 90s…..Aetna and Cigna tried to sell their product overseas! Of course, the effort was a huge FAILURE. The health insurance companies control the media-ever wonder why soo many Viagra ads show up on the evening news? Would there even be an evening news without pharma ads? Insomnia was a 3 billion a year business in the US 10 years ago-it’s a 34 billion a year business now. The difference? Ads for ambien and lunesta. Every day I have patients asking for prescriptions for detrol and vesicare-medications that don’t work for most cases of incontinence. Plavix costs $1 per pill in Spain and $5 per pill in the US and it’s the same drug. We don’t subsidize pharma research through our drug expenditures-most big pharmas conduct most of their research overseas and release drugs onto the the market 5-10 years before those same drugs are released domestically. Face it, the sheeple have been brainwashed by the industry and, once we have a very sizable number-not the current 12% of the population-but a much higher number-not covered by health insurance, only then will the current system collapse and some policy maker will throw something together that makes no one happy.

Report this

By Ivan Hentschel, February 27, 2009 at 6:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Doom and gloom abound, here. We ceratinly brought it on ourselves.

Until we stop viewing health care as a commodity and start viewing it as a humanitarian necessity and a right, all of our thinking will be upside down.

Report this

By mmadden, February 27, 2009 at 3:41 am Link to this comment

Unfortunately the insurance and Pharmaceutical companies have better lobbyists than we do. Profit will always win out until we the people start voting these political bums out of office and elect representatives that will represent us in Washington.

Report this

By tommot, February 27, 2009 at 3:00 am Link to this comment

The United States is a vain unreflective diminishing power. It appears incapable of learning. Joe Conason explains succinctly that the U.S. is at the back of the line in health care. It is also at the back of the line in practically every human service, though it is numero uno in killing products… drones, bombs, and such…which it distributes with admirable generosity.
The simple solution to healthcare is to ask France, for a fee, to set up their system in the United States. We wouldn’t even have to learn French. We would also be well advised to ask the Netherlands to organise the water defenses of New Orleans. It’s really simple. Just look around the world. Where the solutions have been found to any problem, copy them. If the U.S. is incapable, which seems the case since we credit Intelligent Design and the tooth fairy for our opposable thumbs, pay the other more clever societies to create their solutions here.
Of course, this will not happen. We export greed, ignorance and vanity, which are in ample supply, and import infected pet food and other perishables. This society is devoted to capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. Talk of nationalising failed banks and other such institutions is appropriate. Losses are distributed among the deserving poor. Gains stay where they belong in the accounts of the rich. How else?

Report this

By wildflower, February 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment

Don’t think it’s going to work.  American taxpayers are going to strongly object to funding these for-profit medical heath insurance companies.

Other countries that utilize private health providers in their healthcare systems require the company to maintain a non-profit status, which makes sense.

In Japan, any profit made by the provider must be rolled over into the next year.  If the profits are high, the insurer is required to reduce their premiums.

Report this

By cyrena, February 26, 2009 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

Re: By BruSays, February 26 at 8:49 pm
Well BruSays,
As usual, you say it really well yourself…
•  “.. As with all mysteries such as this, you need do one thing: follow the money…”
‘Tis true of course, as you and others here have so very expertly tracked.
Meantime, what GAnderson mentions here, has been a phenomena of not just HMO’s and the HealthCare Industry, but all of the others:
“By G.Anderson, February 26 at 6:37 pm #
“The insurance companies have lost a signficant amount of their profit due to investments they made in the stock market. As high as 57% for some HMO’s.
Guess whose paying for the bad investments, their employees, who are being asked to do more for less, after layoffs.”
This has occurred across the board of the Corptocracy.
This very same issue with employees not only being ‘asked’ to do more for less after lay-off, but that simply being the method of operation, and it has been brutal. It goes by the code name ‘downsizing’ in other industries, but it’s the same thing.
The commercial airline industry has done it for decades, not so much to recoup from bad investments in the stock market, (since they ARE the ‘market’) but rather to boost their own stock market profit margins. Fewer employees are expected to accomplish as much or even more work than a staff three times the size, and are expected to do it for less pay and other benefits. The airline industry (or least some airlines in it) have been doing this since the early 1980’s, though it’s been gradual enough to be imperceptible by those not necessarily focused on that.
The same has been true of the manufacturing industry, (what little we have left) and for the same reasons. It boosts these huge corporate/market profits.
And, when it happens, we ALL pay for it, in some form or fashion. Common sense tells just about anybody, that 2 times fewer employees doing –anything-  cannot effectively deliver whatever the product or service is. So whomever is BUYING the product or service, (be it healthcare or transportation, or a cell phone) is getting screwed too. We get it from all ends.
It’s not a coincidence either, (at least in my opinion) that massive layoffs like this (IBM, ATT, Multiple Airlines, etc) are almost always accompanied by some sort of government bailout. (Not so much IBM, and I’ll have to check my corporate bailout timeline for the others).
This time it’s the Financial Industry that’s being bailed-out, but in reality, it’s ALWAYS been the Financial Industry/the “Market” that has been bailed-out, (read – manipulated) and now the entire thing has collapsed. It’s just been one gigantic crap shoot, and we’ve been busted out…

It’s like BruSays, follow the money, (ie the profits gained from getting far fewer slaves to accomplish the same amount of productivity, which results in a defective product/service for which huge sums of money are still being collected as profits)

That’s where the money is.

So yep, we need to Nationalize the BANKS, and the INSURANCE Industry, and the PHARMACEUTICAL Industry right off the bat. Those trillions of dollars worth of “middleman/corporate profits” need to be manipulated right into our own treasury.

Report this

By Hope Less, February 26, 2009 at 4:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“As always, Congress will resist change on behalf of the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies, preferring to do nothing. But perhaps in the coming years the public will realize that such feckless politicians should be told to go do nothing somewhere else.”

Socialize medicine, nationalize the pharmaceutical companies, and institute public financing of elections. Oh, of course, this will never happen—keep on hoping.

Report this

By BruSays, February 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

SteveK9 said it well:

“It’s been obvious for so long that it is hard not to feel hopeless.  Of the 18 industrialized nations in the world, 17 have universal healthcare.  Only one does not.  On average they spend about half per capita that we do and achieve far better results.  The WHO rated health systems a few years back on some very basic measures—-infant mortality, longevity, etc.  We came in 37th (France was rated first).”

So, we get far less but pay twice as much? And why, as a nation, are we even HAVING a debate on this issue of private vs. national healthcare? What, are we a nation of imbeciles or just grossly mislead?

As with all mysteries such as this, you need do one thing: follow the money.

It needs to be pointed out that Corporate Media is hugely funded by the major pharmeceutical companies. Think how many commercials you watch in any given week on prescription medicines, HMOs, pain relievers, etc.? You think those companies have your interest above those of their stockholders?

It needs to be pointed out that the same Corporate Media that airs those commercials (and therefore receives revenue from those companies) is largely responsible for providing us with our news. They select, review and frame the debate in which the private vs. national healthcare debate takes place. You think they’re going to place your interest - your need to know the truth and facts - above those of their stock holders?

Follow the money.

Report this

By wildflower, February 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

Re: Freya

How can we not compare ourselves to those across the pond? In many ways, it has become the American way to look to those across the pond.  Our businesses, manufacturers, corporations are always looking across the pond. Many of them, in fact, have even traveled across the pond to establish companies, open offices, hire workers, outsource jobs, purchase properties, and even set up secret bank accounts to avoid their taxes.

Let’s face it, they’re doing some innovative things across the pond, which are worthy of our attention. Providing a national healthcare system that covers all of their citizenry, for example, is an admirable accomplishment. Every citizen is getting the prescriptions and medical assistance they need, and families are not losing their homes and/or going bankrupt due to costly medical care.  It’s good to know these things. We can learn from those across the pond.

Report this

By Margaret Currey, February 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I had Kaiser when I worked for the county (state of Ca.) and I was lucky to see the doctor for twenty minutes.  And I had to pay a $1.00 for generic prescriptions.

But a woman goes to Kaiser to have eight babies, I wonder who is paying for those babies care.

My theory is that the doctor’s bottom line is he wanted to show to the woman who could not get pregnent that he had a better way.

Why should health care be for profit because some people do not react to treatment as another person so for profit would just try to eliminate some people because they cannot be standardzied because that is what compaines do.

Of course for profit is great for corporations but corporations also let people die because the bottom line is profit.

Report this

By KDelphi, February 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

AWM is right. YOu know the “what the market will bear” (more like what the people will bear!)Havent you had enough yet??

Insurance industry is salivating over Pres. Obama’s market based plan:

“We don’t yet have the specifics of Obama’s plan, but we do know its centerpiece: an individual mandate on health insurance. Obama has said — and corporate-labor lobbying coalitions have agreed — that Washington should require Americans to buy health insurance. When healthy people opt out of the insurance pool, the theory goes, risk is not adequately spread.

You can guess who’s most enthusiastic about the individual mandate: the insurance companies. Sure enough, The New York Times reported last week that America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association representing health maintenance organizations, has been working with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to help draft a plan that includes a mandate.”

“Another player in Kennedy’s backroom meetings is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, usually a bete noire for liberals because it represents the drug companies. PhRMA’s primary stake in this fight is also obvious. It wants mandates and subsidies, and it wants to limit cost-control measures that would favor cheaper generic drugs.”

Regulations spur mandates, which spur regulations, which spur subsidies. Insurers love the subsidies and the mandates, and the regulations don’t bother them too much — huge regulatory burdens, after all, keep out competition.

The great irony is that Kennedy and Obama, when calling for universal health care, have portrayed themselves as battling big business and freezing out the lobbyists…..

Insurers, drug makers, General Electric, regulators and employers will all benefit, and Obama will declare it a great group effort and a win-win solution. In truth, not everyone wins. “In the end, the taxpayers are going to lose,” says Tanner, “because the taxpayers are going to pay to buy everyone off.”

Why private plans dont work:

“A key reason is that the private health insurance industry imposes massive administrative costs on the healthcare system. Administrative costs in U.S. healthcare are about 31 percent of total health spending. In nations with single payer national health insurance, the overhead costs are about 16.5 percent of spending. The possible administrative savings in going from a multipayer system to a single payer system are about $350 billion annually. That means that by going from the current multipayer, private insurance-dominated system to a nonprofit single-payer system, you have a built-in cost savings of about $350 billion.”

The type of plan that Obama is proposing is very similar to plans that have passed and been partially implemented at the state level, only to fail because they are too expensive to continue. (like Massachusetts)The Obama plan is going to have exactly that problem. That is, when you go to implement this program, you’re left with the wasteful private health insurance industry in place. You try to add new coverage and you’re going to end up adding billions and billions in costs and it’s no longer economically feasible.

The GOP and Blue Dogs will say, “See, we told you…”.

Report this
G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, February 26, 2009 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

The insurance companies have lost a signficant amount of their profit due to investments they made in the stock market. As high as 57% for some HMO’s.

Guess whose paying for the bad investments, their employees, who are being asked to do more for less, after layoffs.

These same companies are hoping that lots of government cash will bring an increase in profits. So right now they are willing to invest 100’s of millions of dollars in lobbying congress to scuttle Obama’s plans for health care reform.

Once the banks are nationalized, we should nationalize the Insurance companies, why should we allow them to fiance the anti health care reform lobby in Washington, when they won’t provide care for American’s? And why should we finance them to donate to Republican’s seeking re election?

Report this

By marcus medler, February 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A positive and constructive article that our new leadership needs to heed. The purpose of comparison is to assure those that need to change that it does turn out fine. I am dismayed that so much “talk” bogs down with the failed models. Our creative energies are spent on hopeless resuscitation, not triage. I would like a list of business models that are doing fine or at least making it during these hard times. I suspect most will be smaller, family corporations or proprietorships, regional/local, cooperatives or mutual/employee owned. The biggest failures tend to be those that exploit and use other peoples money, ideas, and labor for gigantic, quick personal gain. I remind all that the postal service hand delivers mail for 43 cents. The underlying malaise with our health care system is that it is a for profit system. The great outrage and doomsday business bomb is that in a profit corporate system, the leadership is rewarded for loosing money.(oops “other peoples money”) POLITICIANS ARE THE WORSE SINCE THEY CAN SPILL OTHERS BLOOD, SPEND OTHER PEOPLES MONEY AND AVAIL THEMSELVES OF A SOCIALIST HEALTH SYSTEM DESPITE FAILURE. I remind all leaders in Washington to take a look at George Washington’s Uniform from the French/Indian war, in particular the bullet holes.

Report this

By wildflower, February 26, 2009 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Refreshing article, Joe.  It’s like a little oasis in the desert. Personally, I believe most of us in the U.S. are ready for a change at this point, and are very impressed by the progress that some of these other developed countries like Japan, Great Britton, Germany and Taiwan have made in dealing with their domestic challenges. It’s truly inspiring.

I’m convinced the only thing holding us back is the pitiful leadership we have in the U.S. We simply must find a way to weed out the twits that are taking up leadership slots in D.C. This healthcare crisis is prime example. The crisis didn’t develop over night.  It’s been building up for some time now.  And at this point, most reasonable people know and understand why we need to establish a universal health system in the U.S.; yet, we don’t have one.

We don’t have it because many of our own politicians fight against it. These losers seem to be absolutely addicted to the money they are receiving from the for-profit health insurance industry. And like other addicts, they’ve become oblivious to the hardships their addiction has created for others – in this case it’s the American people that are suffering.  For U.S. politicians to continue advocating a “for-profit market based” health care system to a citizenry that can’t afford healthcare, are struggling to pay for healthcare, and are going bankrupt due costly medical bills is shameful, and simply no longer acceptable.

Report this

By Freya, February 26, 2009 at 9:39 am Link to this comment

Nice piece.  I’m not sure we need to compare ourselves to anyone else though, I think we could institute a superior system to those across the pond.  I wish Obama would take a look at the HCFA plan because I think it’s a good transition to public healthcare.  Health Care for America is put together by the political scientist Jacob Hacker with the support of the Economic Policy Institute. I’d suggest reading Thinking Big  for a better summary of the plan, but the basic idea is that employers pay money into a public fund, enough to cover their workers.  The public fund has quality coverage for all, including preventive care.  Workers choose to either keep insurance, choose a different private plan, or join a public health insurance plan without a private insurer middleman,  and pick healthcare providers and doctors.  Employers choose, if it’s too much to provide coverage as good law requires they can enroll their workers in the public plan at a modest cost.  HCFA and Medicare would function as a single nationwide insurance pool covering close to half the population.Either the public plan attracts most Americans, and our system gradually evolves into single-payer or because the floor prevents a race to the bottom, the public-private competition raises the bar on care and efficiency, improving quality and cutting costs, even in the private insurance plans.  The standards would be kept by a strong government watchdog (Biden! smile )

Report this

By SteveK9, February 26, 2009 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

It’s been obvious for so long that it is hard not to feel hopeless.  Of the 18 industrialized nations in the world, 17 have universal healthcare.  Only one does not.  On average they spend about half per capita that we do and achieve far better results.  The WHO rated health systems a few years back on some very basic measures—-infant mortality, longevity, etc.  We came in 37th (France was rated first).

Report this

By AWM, February 26, 2009 at 9:01 am Link to this comment

In response to purplewolf the us is not subsidizing canada’s drug costs we negotiate prices with the drug companies setting the price then make them justify any price increase The subsidy canard comes from the industry itself. They tell you that you have to pay more so that they can do necessary research Huge lie they spend most of their money lifestyle drugs like viagra advertising and bribing doctors to prescribe their drugs

Report this

By KDelphi, February 26, 2009 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

If we cut out Medicare Advantage , as well as “mandatory Rx drugs Part D”, that would cut the costs drastically. Also, STOP the “advertising” of Rx drugs!

Jeremy, by the “European Model”
, you are saying France, so , I assume you mean France. (Scandanavias is the most socialised, amd, Germany, Spain , etc are all slightly different).One thing they have in common—no ne has to file bankruptcy over medical bils, and, no one goes without basic treatment unless they want to.

If we use a French model, doctors will have to accept a more middle class standard of living, (as they do in most EU countries).( In France is about equivalent to $55,000 a year) But this would be to the good, as I believe that more would go into the field for the right reasons. We have too many drs nowdays just going into the field (especially specialiasts) for profits.

They would be purveyors of Medical arts, not salesmen. It would be better all around.

But, the “free mkt” piece of France’s system is far more regulated than ours, and, the insurance cos. would have to submit to more rigorous public standards and, by all measures I can come up with, less profit. This should not be a huge difficulty, considering that insurance corp. profits last years were second only to oil corps!

”      Industry Profits are through the roof:  Between 2003 and 2007, the profits of the nation’s largest insurers rose 170.2 percent, to $12.6 billion. (” From Common, August, 2008.
”      Costs are UP:  Insurance premiums rose over four times as fast as wages between 2000 and 2006. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

”      Quality is DOWN:  A Consumer Reports survey indicated that nationwide, 29 percent of adults with insurance had “coverage so meager they often postponed medical care because of costs.” (

Lastly, HR 676 does NOT consitutte “asocialized medicine” (although the terror over the word is something USAns have to simply get over…the Cold War is over, folks!)“Isn’t this really just socialized medicine like your critics say it is?”

“No, it really isn’t, not even close.  Socialized medicine is where the state owns and controls all of the assets of the system and employs all of the medical personnel involved as well.  With the New Medicare, the state owns nothing and only exercises minimum control over the process such as establishing much needed cost controls and some helpful operating guidelines and mechanisms.”

Reps. John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich. Lets do this!

Report this

By AWM, February 26, 2009 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

Don’t be conned by phrases like socialized medicine. We in Canada pay for our heath care we just pay for it through our taxes and user fees. While not perfect we receive care based on need not our ability to pay.You often hear of wait times up here which is true. We use a triage system those most in need of care go to the front of the line would you rather wait a bit and live or not receive care at all and die. Best of all no insurance companies stealing your money.

Report this

By purplewolf, February 26, 2009 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

After watching Michael Moore’s film Sicko, America could learn a lot from Canada, England, France and yes even Cuba. People in those countries are treated regardless of income and it cost less and they are healthier than what we have now in America.

I have heard the reason our prescriptions cost so much in this country is because America subsidizes the the cost of these medicines for the rest of the world. WHAT!!! When I heard this several years ago I thought it could not be true, but the more these prices raise here and remain about the same in other countries, makes one wonder. An inhaler here$120.00 and in Cuba 5 cents-exact same medicine by the same company. Something is very wrong with this.

My one medication, if purchased in Canada is 10% of the cost here, it is the same medicine that was made here and sent to Canada and sold for 90% less. Yet remember when G.W.Bush claimed we could not buy our medications from Canada, claiming they might be unsafe and “up to our standards”, but it was originally made here? We all know that the previous administration helped more Americans fall into poverty by paying over inflated medical costs at the benefit of his cronies. We have done it the way these people have wanted since Reagan, when over 90% of our medicines were made and imported from Iran, a country who hated us back then. This way of thinking and running the medical field has lead us into a system where if you have the money you can receive the care you need and the comment one of our elected repugs made last year, that health care is not a right and that everyone should not expect even the basics if they are poor, shows how unlevel things are in this country.

It is time for a change from the old way of doing what clearly does not work and perhaps try to emulate a more successful medical system that other countries have had great success with.

Report this

By Benjamin Tasker, February 26, 2009 at 7:00 am Link to this comment

No… nationalizing the Pharmaceuticals and Insurance industries will stagnate their progress by eliminating competition. The European model is much better - private health providers, government rooting for the public and a non-profit negotiator in the middle acting to ensure people get the health care they need and the companies continue to profit. Look at France.

This was a well written article - I only hope these hopes manifest instead of just get hyped up and forgotten.

Report this

By mark, February 26, 2009 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“What they all have in common is that they do not devote a huge proportion of their health spending to the profits of insurance companies…”

I’ll tell you another thing they have in common: they don’t devote obscene amounts of their national budget, many times greater than their global neighbors, to a millitary industrial complex.

Report this

By Exam, February 26, 2009 at 5:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t know what those filthy pigs in Washington are giving themselves for health insurance, but I know the insurance that I could get for my family was a joke.  “For profit” health insurance by definition forces as much profit as possible.  In other words make everyone pay for the insurance and then figure out how not to pay for the actual health care.

I have seen health care in both Europe and America and America is third world compared to Europe.  The health care where I live is affordable ($250/month for my 4 person family)and is quality.  The doctor actually sees you, on time, when you make an appointment.  Pharmaceuticals are WAY cheaper for everything!!!  They don’t know what a co-pay or deductible is.

This isn’t by accident either, it is by design and again I can’t explain why American people won’t wake up and get the pitchforks out.

Don’t count on Obama doing anything differently, he has sold his soul already to those that control America.

Report this

By Logician, February 26, 2009 at 4:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hear, hear!

What a concept!  If we can throw money at big business crooks for years upon years upon years, why not stop and use those bucks for our citizens?
We can only hope!
I do love the sarcasm: “The trouble began during those lonely evenings spent perusing the addled works of Any Rand.”
But objectivism works…NOT!
We can trust businessmen to not lie, cheat, steal, and murder for profit!
The free market will prevail!
Such blind stupidity is shocking, really…
Let’s hope sanity will prevail.
Disclaimer: for a brief time in my own addled youth, I was enamored of Ayn and her ‘philosophy.’  I grew up as I watched my patients die of AIDS in the poorhouse…
Yes, I love my country, I also love my fellow man and don’t feel that we should just let people die if they don’t suck big business dicks…
There can be a useful middle ground that saves face all around, as this article points out.
And how the heck are ya, Cyrena?  Haven’t been here for a while…

Report this

By cyrena, February 26, 2009 at 1:25 am Link to this comment

I love it…especially this most important point..

“The problem with these programs, which have done so much to improve the health of America’s poor and elderly, is neither the size of the boomer cohort nor even that generation’s impending geezerhood. The problem is the rate of cost increase per beneficiary, according to a landmark study released two years ago by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (and described with admirable clarity by Ezra Klein on the American Prospect Web site on Feb. 23).”

Impending geezerhood isn’t the problem, it’s just that it’s costing too much (per geezer) to keep ‘em kickin’.

And, that simply shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t cost that much to keep geezers and non-geezers alike, alive and healthy, to the extent that we can expect to be, based on the relevant demographics. (specifically age and overall health).

AND…it wouldn’t cost even a 10th of what it does now, if we weren’t paying for billions in corporate profits (ie mark-ups in the prices of these goods and services) to the Pharmaceutical and Insurance industries.

I say we nationalize the Pharmaceutical and Insurance industries along with the Banks.

Geezers can live with that, and it will drastically reduce the cost of caring for them/us.

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right 3, Site wide - Exposure Dynamics
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook