Regarding the possible health care compromise, Scot Lehigh asks, “Can the sensible center hold onto a delicate deal?” He’s referring, of course, to the $295 per-employee per-year assessment compromise recently struck between DiMasi and business leaders. (Steve Bailey has background on that today.)
But the way that health care politics works, the “center” really has no sense to it at all; and worries about the relative “competitiveness” of the Massachusetts economy cannot be separated from the fact that here, right now, we have a health care system in crisis. In the US, we pay more, don’t live as long, and cover fewer people than in places with big bad government “socialized medicine”: Canada, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany, you name it. Those places aren’t perfect, but they get better results than we do.
And way way back in ’04 (revised recently), the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation had this to say(pdf, pg. 5; their emphasis):
Achieving universal coverage under the Roadmap plans would require between $700 million and $900 million in new government spending, some of which would be federal [apparently $385 million]. While universal coverage would require modest additional state spending, the Commonwealth would also gain an estimated $1.5 billion a year from the direct economic and social benefits of improved health as well as other positive effects on the stateâs economy.
In other words, spending the money is worthwhile for the economy. And it’s important to highlight that the BCBS report is assuming an employer-based system, which I’m not at all attached to.
While I am decidedly a “staunch liberal”, I am not “predisposed to see business as a foe”, as Lehigh says; in fact, I’d love for business to work with advocates for the uninsured and work on a system that gets the government to guarantee health care for everyone, removing that huge expense item from most businesses, to be replaced by taxes that would almost certainly be less than premiums. But so far we haven’t seen business step up to the plate. Or maybe health-care advocates haven’t made the phone calls to the right folks.
Lehigh’s and Bailey’s columns today both focus on the self-congratulation of big players in the political establishment cutting a deal. And I devoutly hope that our lawmakers succeed in rescuing our $385 million from Health and Human Services Sec. Mike Leavitt’s game of keep-away. But a half-way meeting point between politicos and business is not necessarily the “sensible center.” For instance, Lehigh acknowledges that major players like the AFL-CIO were not involved in negotiations; do they not belong on our imaginary graph — regardless of the temperaments of the individuals involved? Was DiMasi the sole representative of the uninsured at the table?
In other words: Do the rest of us count? Does economic reality count? If so, it seems to me that the “sensible center” might move far away from what’s being contemplated.
And indeed, this issue will not somehow dissolve into this air this year, regardless of what’s passed or not passed. If we see people of modest incomes being forced to cough up bucks for lousy insurance products under a “personal mandate” … front burner. Again. And we’ll again see a major push for a large expansion of the government’s role: Medicaid/MassHealth at the least, and single-payer at most. And maybe the business community will get smart next time.
UPDATE: To show the value of having our “Differently-Winged” folks on the blogroll, Tim Little points to this post at MA GOP News. Forget the Hillary-bashing; there are some excellent, bold suggestions here, including this humdinger:
Step 7: Eliminate the role of third-party payers (i.e., insurance companies) in medicine. The largest buildings in most cities today are those occupied by insurance companies. But insurance companies donât cure anybody! They merely suck money out of the system, and contribute to the wealth of a parasitic portion of society.
Not bad, GOP News, Not. Bad. At. All.