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The New York Times Trashes Single-Payer Health Reform
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 09:41
by Dave Lindorff

In an article in the Sunday New York Times, headlined “Medicare for All? ‘Crazy,’ ‘Socialized’ and Unlikely,”reporter Katherine Q. Seelye did her best to damn the idea of government insurance for all with faint praise.

To begin her article, Seelye quoted from a 2005 episode of the NBC drama “West Wing,” in which two presidential candidates, a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and a Republican played by the always loveable Alan Alda, are discussing health care reform. The Smits character says his “ideal plan” would be Medicare for all. “That’s crazy” counters the Republican Alda. Then Seelye segued to an opinion piece recently penned by real-life one-time Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (a noble figure who nonetheless has long-since been type-cast as an out-of-touch, extreme liberal loser), who favors expansion of Medicare into a national single-payer system.

Turning to the real world, Seelye then trotted out several economists, ostensibly to give a broad spectrum of arguments about the idea of single-payer, but in fact carefully avoiding including anyone who actually supports the idea of expanding Medicare.

As her representative "liberal," she quoted Brandeis economist Stuart Altman, an Obama adviser during the presidential campaign, who said that while he is not “ideologically uncomfortable” with expanding Medicare, such a move would be “disruptive.” Going then to what she described as “the other end of the political spectrum,” Seeley quoted Robert E Moffit, of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who claimed Medicare would mean too much government power over heatlh care.” Finally, seeking what she could call middle ground, Seelye turned to Dartmouth economist Jonathan Skinner, who claimed that expanding Medicare would be good because it would cover everyone, but bad because it would mean tripling the Medicare tax, currently 2.9% of paychecks. If we were looking at a political yardstick here, Seelye started at the 16” mark (Altman), then went to the 36” mark (Moffit), and finally went to the 24” mark (Skinner).

But where was an economist from the real left end of the political spectrum, over in the single digits of that yardstick? Altaman, representing the private insurance-based Obama approach, was hardly it!

Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.

Seelye might have gone to her colleague, columnist Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Princeton, who has on a number of occasions written and stated that a single-payer system such as Medicare for all would be “far cheaper” than any private insurance-based system. Krugman is no leftist, but at least he would be over by the 10” or 12” line on a political yardstick.

Never has the Times really analyzed the true costs and benefits of the plan espoused in a bill, HR 676, authored by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI), which would expand Medicare to cover every American. Seelye mentions Rep. Conyers’ bill, but dismisses it as “going nowhere” in the House. In fact, his bill, despite having been co-sponsored by 86 members of the House, has been blocked from getting a public hearing in committee by Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership, at the behest of the Obama White House, which is dead-set against a single-payer reform of health care.

The reason the Times and the insurance industry-besotted White House and Congressional leadership don’t want that analysis is that it would show clearly that a single-payer system would mean vast savings--and vastly improved access to health care--for all Americans.

Seelye quotes economist Skinner as claiming that Medicare expansion to cover every American would mean a tripling of the Medicare payroll tax—currently set at 2.9% of wages. But even if we accepted Skinner’s math, it is meaningless without looking at the savings side--the only mention of which is Seelye's parenthetical aside that "supporters [of Medicare for all] argue that a tax increase would be somewhat [sic] neutralized by the elimination of premiums that people now pay to insurance companies."

Sure expanding Medicare would mean higher Medicare taxes, but consider the following:

Medicaid, the program that pays for medical care for the poor, and is funded by federal and state taxes, would be eliminated, saving $400 billion a year.

Veterans’ care, currently running at $100 billion a year, would be eliminated.

Perhaps two-thirds of the $300 billion a year spent by federal, state and local governments to reimburse hospitals for so-called “charity care” for treatment of people who have no insurance but don’t qualify for Medicaid, would be eliminated.

Individuals and employers would no longer have to pay for private insurance. Note that here were're talking about between $7000 and $12,000 per year per employee in terms of employee and employer contribution to insurance premiums--an enormous sum! Some 54% of the $2.4 trillion that the US spends on health care each year is paid for by private insurance or by individuals or employers paying for health insurance. It's hard to quantify exactly how much of that is insurance premiums, but safe to say it's well over $1000 per person or $4000 per average family.

Several hundred billion dollars currently spent on paperwork by private insurers would be eliminated.

Car insurance would be cheaper as there would no longer have to be coverage for medical bills.

Federal, state and local governments would no longer have to pay to insure public employees.

In short, if every person were on Medicare, the overall savings would overwhelm the small increase in the Medicare payroll tax of 5.8%. Even just looking at taxes, the net result would be a savings, when federal, state and local tax savings are considered.

The bottom line is that Canadians, who have Medicare for all, devote 10% of GDP to health care. Americans, who have private-insurance-based health care except for the elderly, devote 17% of GDP to health care.

Seelye and the Times have never mentioned any of this. Neither does President Obama or the Democratic Congress.

And of course, all we really need to know is that the insurance industry bitterly opposes the idea of Medicare for all, which would put it out of the health care business.

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Comments (2)add comment

Project Humanbeingsfirst.org said:

one-world government makes this moot!

Mr. Dave Lindorff's article in its counterpoint to the NYT column points out all the pros of single-payer system in terms of monetary benefit. It does not mention the cons. It also looks at the problem-domain in isolation from the rest of the social dynamics underlying the social engineering that is presently being orchestrated in the United States (and the world). To predict trends accurately, as to analyze a proposal, I strongly feel one has to examine the underlying, often un-apparent, interconnectedness under full system dynamics. Idealized renderings, like journalism reform ( http://tinyurl.com/journalismreform ), can sometimes mis-diagnose the problem by having a priori mis-identified the problem to solve. I suspect this might be the case with this debate as well. Here is why.

If the impetus towards one-world government is real and not merely immanent (i.e., conspiracy theory), then, global health management is a key component of global governance. It follows that more centralization, rather than decentralization, will happen in healthcare. And that applies to payer-systems as well. It is only a matter of time. The NYT, I naively suspect, either hasn't done due diligence as correctly pointed out in Mr. Lindorff's analysis, or, putting on my 'convolution hat', is playing false opposition in the same Hegelian Dialectical spirit as played against the first draft of the Federal Reserve Act 1910-1913 (see Eustace Mullins' "Secrets of the Federal Reserve" http://tinyurl.com/mullins-secrets on how newsmedia played false opposition to lead public opinion towards another instance of the very same Act in the guise of opposing it because the oligarchs had sensed the public mood accurately). The NYT is but a worthy instrument of the Mighty Wurlitzer and can play many a complex tune (see Note on Mighty Wurlitzer http://tinyurl.com/mightywurlitzer ).

Let's look at the the most overt con of centralization, whose nominal effect is manifested in the payment system, single-payer and its monetary aspects, but the cause, as well as the key objective is more centralization of healthcare. One can glean the con in the difference between Canada and the US, in their present state of centralized vs. decentralized medicine. I suspect that it will be, logistically speaking, a bit easier to forcibly mass vaccinate the Canadians, than the Americans, for the simple fact of the centralization of the former's healthcare.

In a benign government working for the people, I think the analysis of the author of this article is correct. Healthcare, a public utility, like money, like many other public commons, with no excessive profits from human toils, illnesses, and war sufferings, makes sense in the perfect Atlantis.

Is that assumption correct however - of a benign government working in the best interest of its peoples?

Or does it work for the interest of the oligarchs, as their front faces, as their errand boys? Empirical evidence bears what out?

To answer the healthcare question, one must first answer the oligarchy question, and their agenda for one-world governance in which there is, effectively, no national sovereignty. Today, for instance, WHO (World Health Organization), under its level-6 pandemic alert, legally controls the United States healthcare system, as the healthcare of all the signatories of its protocol. Look it up.

Those sort of "higher order bits" on higher level issues can make this debate of healthcare rather irrelevant(?). Similar "higher order bits" exist across the board for social engineering: from global solutions for global financial collapse being global currency, to global solutions for global warming being carbon-credit, to global solutions for terrorism being the 'global war on terror', to global solutions for global pandemics being global centralized healthcare protocol which will, I strongly suspect, eventually entail central payment systems closer to the Canadian model, making this healthcare single-payer debate based on its monetary impact rather inconsequential

Thank you,

Zahir Ebrahim
Project Humanbeingsfirst.org
October 04, 2009 | url
Votes: +0

patnais102 said:

insight from a french canadian working in the health sector
I follow american news everyday and I have to admit this whole issue about health care scare me (how your right wing poor react to it is truly amazing).I have listen a couple of panels about the subject on C-Span and 3 arguments were coming again and again against single payer, first the rationalization of health care , second the government between you and your doctor and third the cost issue.The first argument is a pure joke , health care are already more rationalized in U.S than in any other western country.The second is also a joke if you take a system like our (Canada)because hospital are privately managed but publicly founded which lead to so much waste in material it make me sick , people have this weird idea because the government is paying we can waste like if the government money was not our.The last argument is the real one , you have to work inside the system to understand why.Most illness people have today are chronicle and caused by their lifestyle (obesity , diabetes, high pressure, cardio vascular problem , lung cancer etc.)Those disease cost a fortune to treat and when people are well checked they can live many decades with it (all that paid by the public) I won't talk about the mental illness issue because it is even worse if people knew the amount of money our government is wasting on people who belong to jail or simply poor people who see the hospital as an hotel(they come back every month but leave the first week of every month when they get their well fare cheque).The aging of the population make the problem even worse , we keep people in vegetative state because their family are to selfish to realize the people they loved is gone and only the body is left , I have seen so many case of Futile medical care. It is disgusting to see the amount of material that can be wasted on a 95 years old vegetative patient, to use the right wing term I think we need death panel here.Public health care can be easily seen as a sacrifice of the younger generation to the profit of the older (1/3 of our state budget is going to health care).The health care system is the favorite battle horse of every politician , old people want good health care so they get elected on the base that they will inject more money in the health care system a.k.a less in the education system , road , infrastructure etc.(everything useful to the younger generation).It's funny to see you fight for single payer while in every countries where we have it the private sector is gaining more place every day.
November 19, 2009
Votes: +0

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