Issue XVIII: My Case for Universal Health Care

5 Aug

Sometime earlier this year, I got into an argument with someone about health insurance, and what I thought should happen for health care in America. I wrote an e-mail to this person showing him what I thought, but more importantly WHY and what facts I used to come to those conclusions.

Why Universal Health Care? If something is cheaper, more efficient, and better, why not? Here is my primer and reading list for you guys based on that e-mail.

American Medical Student Association – Universal Health Care Page
and the “Case for universal health care” adds this paragraph which I think think is key.

“The important point to take away from Thorpe’s study is that universal health care, coupled with cost controls, can save money while expanding health care access to everyone. If universal health care simply expanded access, the net expenditure would be large. The only way to pay for this expanded access is to institute cost controls such as administrative simplification”

New York Review of Books Paul Krugman article
this also explains why “making better health coverage” for an insurance company is not necessarily in the interest of the insurance company

“The cost advantage of public health insurance appears to arise from two main sources. The first is lower administrative costs. Private insurers spend large sums fighting adverse selection, trying to identify and screen out high-cost customers. Systems such as Medicare, which covers every American sixty-five or older, or the Canadian single-payer system, which covers everyone, avoid these costs. In 2003 Medicare spent less than 2 percent of its resources on administration, while private insurance companies spent more than 13 percent.”

Physicians for National Health Plan

Medicare overpayments show the public health insurance is more efficient

According to both the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) — Congress’ expert advisory body on Medicare payment policy — and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Medicare is paying private insurers 12 percent more than it costs to treat the same beneficiaries under the regular Medicare program. The overpayment works out to about $1,000 per beneficiary per year, on average. This disparity costs Medicare billions of dollars each year.
As a result of these findings, MedPAC has unanimously recommended that Congress “level the playing field” by paying the insurance companies the same amounts it pays under the regular Medicare program. A paper issued by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in 2004 made the same recommendation. (See the box on page 5.) CBO has reported that this step would save $54 billion over five years and $150 billion over ten years.

American College of Physicians – “What the United States Can Learn from Other Countries

The American College of Physicians, which represents all doctors who practice adult medicine (internal medicine) and its subspecialties, recently came out for universal single-payer health care. This is the article announcing their change in political objectives. The ACP article is amazing in its scope and it shows how administrative costs are highest in the United States, less in multipayer systems, and lowest in universal single payer health care systems.

There is a lot of information around there repeating my basic contention that if everyone were forced to pay into a government Medicare for all, administrative costs which seem to eat between 13-30% of private insurance costs, would fall to the much lower numbers of 2-10% for administration I have seen. That excess money can be used to cover all people or reduce costs or fund prevention. If universal health care has been repeatedly proven to work in the rest of the OECD, what makes America so darn different?

People haven’t been given the basic facts on this debate. I just want to show people the facts, and they can make their own philosophical conclusions. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

3 Responses to “Issue XVIII: My Case for Universal Health Care”

  1. rekha August 5, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    well put. this is much appreciated.

  2. Jeremy Sarber September 17, 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    Hey there, James. I was running a sort of “conservative versus liberal” contest where someone from both sides would write a 500 word or more essay on the provided subjects. I still need an essay titled “Why Universal Health Care Is a Good Idea”. The more popular article between the two (the other being “Why Universal Health Care Is a Bad Idea”) wins $20. Would you be interested?

    My email is

  3. Jeremy Sarber September 17, 2008 at 6:46 pm #

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to call you James. 😉

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