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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Private Insurance Can't Compete with Public Health Coverage?

I'm reading an AP report on President Obama's health coverage reform plan. The main political concern discussed is that including an option for Americans to buy health insurance from the government would kill any chance of passage:

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., meanwhile, said he is wary that a public plan could make insurance reforms "a sham." His views carry weight because he is the Senate health committee's top Republican.

"It's important that the private market be involved, and not to set up the whole thing so it's a sham to compete with the government, so the government eventually can be the only supplier," Enzi said in a recent interview. "We are not going to do an expansion of Medicare. To use that as the model and try to make everybody compete with it would severely limit the market" [Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "Government-run Plan Could Trip up Health Overhaul," AP via Yahoo News, 2009.03.06].

Now let me see if I'm reading that right: Senator Enzi worries that private insurers couldn't compete with an expanded Medicare. But competitive advantage comes from providing better products and services at lower prices, right?

A recent analysis by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group that sponsors health care research, is giving supporters of a public plan some ammunition.

The study estimated costs and coverage under a hypothetical health reform plan similar to what Obama proposed in the campaign. It found that a public plan like Medicare could reduce projected health care costs by about $2 trillion over an 11-year period. Premiums in the public plan would be at least 20 percent lower, partly because of reduced administrative costs. Within a decade or so, some 105 million people would be in the public plan, compared with about 107 million with private insurance [Alonso-Zaldivar, 2009.03.06].

$180 billion in annual savings. Premiums 20% lower. No wonder private insurers are worried. The last thing the profiteers want is for all Americans to have the chance to join the biggest, most efficient health insurance pool possible, a public pool that would save money and save lives.

But don't sweat it, free-market apologists. Real single-payer Canada-care is off the table. Not even President Obama can muster the courage to tell the insurance companies to drop dead. Grrr.


  1. We deserve, and were promised, the same health care as received by members of congress.

    It worked just fine for my family and in when in the military. We deserve no less and it is imperative for the US's future competitiveness.

  2. Would our thinking be totally out of place if we dared think that the GOP opposition to single-payer insurance might have something to do with contributions that industry dumps into congress?

    Egregious health care expense and insurance is the poster boy for public financing and banning of all corporate political contributions no matter how disguised.

  3. Just so you know. Not everyone in Canada is a fan of their healthcare. It is my understanding, from personal Canadian friends, that the wait for many elective surgical procedures can be six months or more. So folks with 10/10 knee pain, just get to suck it up until they get in. Now, Cory I know you had the opportunity for some heathcare from our friends up north and just absolutely loved it. Again, that is what the illegal Mexicans think of our system. I guess anytime you do not have to pay for something it its good. However, please remember nothing is free. Now, for the Commonwealth Fund. Show me that this was good research. Was their some sort of "Double Blind" study (the gold standard) performed that shows validity and reliability for their efforts. I'm sure you realize that thousands of studies are performed year. Many are not worth the paper they are printed on.

  4. Nope—burden's on you, Anon 12:27, to indict the study. You don't get to hide behind the ignorant, "Oh, you can't believe any study!" claim to reject out of hand any study you don't like. I present evidence; you present wishful thinking. I win.

    And you continue to ignore what I said: I don't expect free health care. When we lived in Vancouver BC, we paid our health premiums, just like everyone else. We just paid our premiums to the government, and received better coverage than any American company has ever offered us for less money. It's called getting your money's worth, not getting a free ride. Anon, you just don't get to characterize everyone who threatens your failing worldivew as a freeloading Mexican.

  5. Oh, Thanks for the sermon Cory. You call me ignorant, I called you nothing. I thought this was a blog to present thoughts, not a childs game of name calling. Frankly, I'm thriving in this economy. You simply cited a research study. Again, prove to me its valid, reliable, and really worth any consideration. I'm sure you want to believe I'm ignorant. I know your an arrogant ass.

  6. Sermon? No, just rules of rational discourse?

    Called you ignorant? No, just your claim. I don't even know who you are. But you do have a persistent tendency to ignore what was actually said.

    And I'm still waiting for you to fulfill your burden of rejoinder... with evidence. Easier for you to collapse to name-calling, eh?

  7. [Anon offers to buy me a one-way ticket to Vancouver... but then goes too vulgar for this blog. Sorry, Anon... but you'll have to give me a name and number so I can reach you to discuss getting that ticket... and to discuss your concerns face-to-face, like neighbors.]

  8. Anon,
    When Cory and I lived for eight months in Vancouver, we paid a premium of $96 CAD for a family of two. At the time, that was about $75 USD (it’s the same exchange rate right now) for comprehensive health insurance with a $0 deductible. You can click hereto see the premiums, which are based on family size and income. I just checked, and the rates haven’t changed since we were on the provincial plan in 2004-05. Funny, our rates since getting back on health insurance in the U.S. in 2005 have increased at least 30%.

    Fortunately, we didn’t have to use medical services during our time in B.C., but I knew plenty of people who did. This is purely anecdotal evidence, but I met literally no one during that time who was dissatisfied with the Canadian system and would have preferred the U.S. system. In fact, I often heard comments of disbelief from Canadians about how our U.S. system is set up. I also had a classmate from the U.S. with cystic fibrosis who chose grad school in Canada, because she couldn’t get the coverage she needed in the U.S., but she could in Canada. And I have a close friend who’s a U.S. citizen and has lived in B.C. for many years. A couple years ago she had to undergo non-elective surgery, and while she had a longer wait than she would have in the U.S. (while it wasn’t an elective thing, her health wasn’t endangered by waiting a little longer), she told me she was very satisfied with the outcome and would never want to go back to the U.S. health system.

  9. government run heathcare did not seem to poular with these folks.

    Britain apologises for 'Third World' hospital

    The British government apologised Wednesday after a damning official report into a hospital likened by one patient's relative to "a Third World" health centre.
    Stafford Hospital in central England was found to have appalling standards of care, putting patients at risk and leading to some dying, according to a report on Tuesday.

    Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period at the National Health Service (NHS) hospital, according to an investigation by the Healthcare Commission watchdog.

    "We do apologise to all those people who have suffered from the mistakes that have been made in the Stafford Hospital," said Prime Minister Gordon Brown, questioned on the matter at his weekly grilling in the House of Commons.

    Receptionists with no medical training were left to to assess patients arriving at the hospital's accident and emergency department, the report found.

    Julie Bailey, whose 86-year-old mother Bella died in the hospital in November 2007, said she and other family members slept in a chair at her bedside for eight weeks because they were so concerned about poor care.

    "What we saw in those eight weeks will haunt us for the rest of our lives," said the 47-year-old. "We saw patients drinking out of flower vases they were so thirsty.

    "There were patients wandering around the hospital and patients fighting. It was continuous through the night. Patients were screaming out in pain because you just could not get pain relief.

    "It was like a Third World country hospital. It was an absolute disgrace."

    The British premier, who has trumpeted huge increases in spending on the NHS since his Labour party took office in 1997, said there were "no excuses" for what happened to patients at the hospital.

    Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "I apologise on behalf of the government and the NHS, for the pain and anguish caused to so many patients and their families by the appalling standards of care at Stafford Hospital.

    "Patients will want to be absolutely certain that the quality of care at Stafford Hospital has been radically transformed, and in particular, that the urgent and emergency care is administered safely," he added.

  10. ...and yet I don't hear anyone calling for PM Brown to respond by privatizing the system; instead, they work together as a nation to fix it. Still better than the for-profit system.


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