Labor Law Guy

Single-Payer Fix: Talking Billions, Forgetting Trillions

Posted in Random Musings by laborlawguy on February 2, 2009

A group going by the name of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) has solved the Riddle of the (Health Care) Sphinx, or so it proclaims.

The PDA folk claim that, by just extending Medicare to all Americans (thereby jettisoning, one would presume, all other current health care delivery systems), the country could–bugles blaring, drums rolling–create 2,613,495 million new, permanent, good-paying jobs; boost the economy by $317 billion in increased business and public revenues; add $100 billion in employee compensation;  and infuse public budgets with $44 billion in new tax revenues.

First, as for these “new, permanent, good-paying jobs,” you don’t just pick up doctors, nurses or skilled technicians off the street, and just about every study out there shows that there is already a complete dearth of these professionals to suddenly cover the estimated 47 million Americans who lack health insurance. In Massachusetts, under its new so-called universal health care plan, most of the newly insured can’t find a doctor–and can’t afford the premiums (which the state has found itself paying or subsidizing).

But what is most disturbing about this proclamation of health heaven just over the horizon is the disingenuous financing figures–just $44 billion (or $63 billion–the distinction between these figures is not entirely clear)  more than what is currently being spent on health care in America, and you get this single-payer nirvana.

Sounds like a bargain, huh? Problem is, the PDA people never say how the government will transfer the other $2.1 trillion (yes, with a T) being spent yearly on the current, mostly private system, a sum which includes  insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, and so on.

The group’s  obvious point is, “How could anyone object to spending about $44 (or $63) billion when we’ve bailed out all those banking, stock market and mortgage sleazeballs for several hundred billion?”

It would be hard to so object if it were the only factor, but it would be harder still to find a way to transfer the current $2.1 trillion being spent on health care. Remember, a lot of that money is money that taxpayers are paying themselves–and which they don’t want to pay under any so-called “health care reform.” The public wants out-of-pocket expenses to disappear, and then to be able to walk into any doctor’s office on whim and get treated–without any inconvenience, waiting time or personal money spent.

The public, in short, wants a pipe dream, and sites like this, which make insuring the whole country seem like it costs less than one day in Iraq, only contribute to the daydreaming American public’s fantasies.

As the PDA site proclaims, this $63 billion–they waffle back and forth with $44 billion–is one-sixth the size of the bailout for CitiGroup and half the bailout size for AIG.

Unless my math (and PC calculator) are faulty, if you divide $2.1 trillion by 300 million people, that comes out at $7,000 per person each year. Hardly free–and certainly a lot more than $66 billion, or $220 per person per year. Hell, I’ll write a check for $220 now if I can get that seamless, faultless health care system everyone dreams of.

Unfortunately, this being the real world, it’ll cost each of us $6,780 more a year–and that’s just to get Medicare.

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