Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Everything Comes (Eventually) on the Wings of Business—Even Health Care

Single-payer national health care isn’t going to get here because it would be the right thing to do. And it hasn’t a prayer of showing up as a response to the 45, 46, 47 million (and counting) Americans who don’t have it.

Single-payer national health care isn’t going to get here because it would be the right thing to do. And it hasn’t a prayer of showing up as a response to the 45, 46, 47 million (and counting) Americans who don’t have it. Nor will it arrive because of the inequity of job-slavery that parents with sick kids endure. For sure the haves will never present it to the have-nots as a fair and equitable sharing of America’s bounty.
So, how then will it arrive?
Senpatroberts Boeing and Chrysler, Wal-Mart and CitiGroup, General Electric and Exxon will soon enough be beating down the doors of Congress for relief from their present employee health costs. They will be particularly adamant about their growing obligation to retirees.
They’ll wipe at their wire-rimmed glasses and talk about competitiveness and level playing fields in world markets.
Congress will listen. Faced with unprecedented pension fund defaults and corporate dismemberment of health care plans, drowning in skyrocketing co-payments and watching hospitals turn away the sick and injured at emergency rooms, Congress is already at the pump and primed. The old feared and demonized Democratic ‘socialized medicine’ will suddenly morph into the Republican ‘long overdue health care reform’ and the House and Senate will march hand in bi-partisan hand into the healthy glow of a healthy sunset.
Healthcare Goodbye Managed Care, so long HMOs and bye-bye to company health plans.  Auf wiedersehen to insurance salesmen and the companies they work for, having long worked against us. Arrivederci to all those co-signators, co-payments, opt-ins, opt-outs, limits of liability, thresholds of participation, write-offs of previous conditions, responsibility confusion, privacy intrusion, incomprehensible billings and surprises at the cashier.
Your friendly old Republican Scrooge is going to make it all go away. Not because he has seen the Ghost of Illness Past, that never moved him sufficiently, but because the Ghost of Illness Yet to Come has appeared on the stair.
(Washington Post) General Motors has been at the forefront of a push to get the UAW to assume responsibility for tens of billions of dollars that the automakers owe for health care and other benefits for retirees. The automakers want to make lump-sum payments to a trust fund and leave to the union decisions related to investing assets and paying benefits.

GM has 332,000 union retirees and $50 billion in retiree health-care obligations.

Collectively, the Detroit automakers have more than $90 billion in unfunded retiree health-care obligations, covering about 1.5 million working and retired employees.
Money An unfunded $700 billion to fight a ridiculous war against an undefeatable enemy is merely an economic fly to be swatted by future generations. Businessmen shrug at that and eagerly line up for their next tax concession.
They are hardened men, fast on the draw and faster at the leveraged buyout. A few billion here, a few thousand layoffs there, it's the way of commerce.
But an unfunded $90 billion, attributable to three American automobile companies that are already on their knees and would be perfectly solvent if it weren’t for a few decades of crappy decision-making at the executive level—that’s a problem needs solving.
That’s no longer socialized medicine, that’s long overdue health care reform that will allow every God-fearing (possibly Republican) worker to recognize that his (mostly Republican) employer has his best interests at heart. If it weren’t for the Democrat holdouts and their unending political posturing, we’d have had it a long time ago.
(Reasonline, May 11th) Big business jumped on board the health care reform train earlier this week with the announcement of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR). No presidential candidate worth his or her salt has failed to come out in favor of affordable high quality health care for all Americans. (As Wharton health care economist Mark Pauly says, "That's like being in favor of affordable Bentleys for everybody.") The bandwagon has room enough for all of them: The CAHR includes 40 big players including Safeway, Del Monte, Heinz, Kimberley-Clark, PepsiCo, Clorox, Norfolk Southern, GlaxoSmithKline, Aetna, Eli Lilly, Cigna and Kraft Foods.
Bigpharma No Mark, the Bentleys will still be owned and driven by the rich, but we’re likely to see Fords for everyone because the employment cost of having everyone walk to work is just too high.
There will be losers and who the losers are and how much they lose has always been the backbreaker to any meaningful reform. Big Pharma and Big Insurers have always muscled their way past Senate and House receptionists to nail down their interests.
But CAHR is the long awaited hole in the dike and dissatisfied workers didn’t cause the breach, stockholders are the ones shaking their fists. PepsiCo isn’t about to go down the tubes because retirees swamped their boat.
The Coalition has endorsed five core principles to guide health care reform. Reforms must result in a market-based health care system; individuals must carry mandated health insurance coverage; coverage for low-income individuals will be subsidized; reforms must include strong personal financial incentives for adopting healthy behaviors; and the difference in tax treatment between employer-provided and individual health insurance policies must be eliminated.
That’s eye-wash. Mandated by whom? Subsidized by whom? Financial incentives for healthy behavior? Are they kidding? They can get same-tax-treatment between employers and employees, but only with a single-payer (federal) system supported by the general tax base. And they know it.
Michaelmooresicko_3 They will get it. Single-payer will
  • squeeze 40% of the cost out of the system,
  • take 50 million uninsured off the rolls,
  • unburden businesses all the way from the mom-and-pop drycleaner to General Motors (if there still is a GM).
United Airlines can fly the friendly skies instead of skidding through the bankruptcy courts of America. The quid-pro-quo is probably that American business and industry will have to come home and pay their taxes. They will probably have to pay an additional ‘health tax’ of some sort as the price to unburden themselves, but they’ll be eager as hell to do so.
Unburdened, they are worth additional gazillions and if a GlaxoSmithKline here or an HMO there gets their floor waxed, so be it. The Private Equity Market that has just recently defined itself will be wowed. If a pharmaceutical or a health insurer takes a hit along the way to wow, that’s just Darwinian Republicanism.
At least initially, it doesn't look as though the Coalition members are proposing to shirk their health insurance obligations. Instead the Coalition aims to put those responsibilities where they properly belong—into the hands of individual Americans. If so, that would be a big win/win for both employers and employees. 
Wirerimrepublicans Which would be a crock and a sham, if businesses were really serious and really meant it. But solving their health care problem for today’s employee doesn’t solve it for retirees and that’s where the shoe pinches. That’s like ‘solving’ social security with an immediate annuity-based system. What about the folks with their hand already out?
Business, large and small, is taking off their wire-rimmed glasses, wiping their eyes and trying out the phrase--single-payer socialized medicine. It takes a little getting used to. But so does the Ghost of Illness Yet to Come.
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