May 28, 2009 in Health Reform
America’s per capita health care spending dwarfs that of other industrialized nations. But for what benefits? Americans don’t live as long as citizens of other industrialized nations; many American’s face bankruptcy by health care spending, a phenomena unique to the US; and, with the current growth rate of Medicare and Medicaid, the federal budget will have to take away funding from other social programs just to keep up with health care spending over the next few decades. America obviously needs reform.
Photo by jcolman
But what isn’t obvious is how reform should manifest. Should we push for a single-payer system similar to those in Japan, the UK, and Taiwan, or should the new system be more like Switzerland’s and utilize private insurers? However, with an issue as delicate and important as health care reform, any proposal will need solidarity in the American public. At the very least, the American legislative system demands it — reform that lacks solidarity is bound to fail.
Single-payer proposals promise intricacies that affect too many stakeholders — throw out the private insurers, scrap the system, we’re starting over. Since when has any mammoth proposal come close to making it through congress? There will be too many details in a single-payer plan for lawmakers to bicker about.
The Clinton health reform plan of the early 1990′s was born into a climate similar to the one the Obama plan will inevitably meet. But the Clinton plan failed to pass. Why? Even though it didn’t propose anything as radical as single-payer health care, it tried to overstretch the piecemeal limits of American legislative progress.
Health care needs reform, but reform needs united support to ensure success. While single-payer systems have an excellent track record in other nations for lowering health care costs and maintaining admirable health outcomes (high life expectancy, low infant mortality, etc.), a single-payer proposal just won’t pass in the United States. Even if a single-payer system is the best option, proponents of reform need to be realistic. Piecemeal change is the name of the game, and we need a plan that will actually make it through congress.