August 03, 2009
Health Care for All

Anthony Piel, a friend and neighbor, was for many years a director and legal counsel of the World Health Organization. This is from a column he wrote for our local weekly, the Lakeville Journal.

…I have sent the Obama administration information about the WHO plan, because, when someone’s got a better mousetrap, why not copy it?

The WHO plan is better even than the health coverage of the U.S. Congress, or of any known HMO or private health insurance plan. For example, in addition to the usual costs of doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, immunizations, hospitalization etc., it covers mental, dental, eyeglasses, prosthetics, etc. It covers those costs anywhere in the world; you can break a leg in the Himalayas, and you’re covered, regardless of provider. WHO has special mechanisms for controlling cost charges in different countries, and drug companies and other providers fear to fight these controls.

For lesser medical costs, the WHO plan covers 80 percent; patient liability is 20 percent. But when there are catastrophic costs due to heart, stroke cancer etc., the WHO plan switches to as high as 100-percent coverage and the patient liability to as low as 0 percent. (That’s the WHO answer to “Sicko.”)

The cost under the WHO plan? Under $300 a month for a family of four. In other words, an affordable, universal health insurance plan is feasible. The WHO plan resembles a standardized, single-payer system, so administrative costs are a fraction of what they are under U.S. private plans. The WHO plan is fully funded, so it is not dependent on future tax revenue, and no one can borrow from it to wage foreign wars. There are enormous savings in the WHO plan, and all income is plowed back into the fund.

That’s the secret of success. All we have to do is copy it. The unique cost problem for the United States, unlike WHO, is that in the United States we’re playing catch-up. We have to prime the pump for all those people who have never yet paid into the plan, but will have immediate health costs. We also have to fund, or help pay the premiums for, the truly poor and unemployed. That could cost a few billion dollars. If we can recover the economy, with full employment, the Obama plan will ultimately pay its own way. We can one day provide truly universal coverage to achieve “Health for All.”

But do we have the political will to do so? The HMO, insurance and pharmaceutical industries are spending multi-millions of dollars in the guise of supporting health-care reform, lobbying Congress to exclude a public option from the mix, on the grounds that (a) it would be inefficient, (b) yet it would out-compete private plans, and (c) anyway it’s “socialized medicine…”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at August 03, 2009 02:15 PM
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So where's the form to sign up?

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on August 3, 2009 6:46 PM

Corporate America, in select industries, wants something like this very badly. Individual CEOs and the boards of their companies want it across all industries. They've been talking about it for ages, and griping over the loss of "competitiveness" from the added costs, however much they chisel them down. But when the corporate class as a whole considers what it would mean, only the companies staggering on the verge of bankruptcy want it. Everyone else wants health care chained to employment, and employment chained to hire and fire at will. The managers have been such bitterly vindictive, worthless, soulless, Taylor-worshipping neoliberal assholes for so long that they know their workforces will be eying a little payback once they're no longer terrified of bearing the full costs of illness.

The top ranks of the unions give single payer and hybrids like Piel's some lip service, but they too want to keep health care firmly tied to employment. Their interests align with the corporate managerial class, and they're no better at all when it comes measures of character and competence. With single payer or an independent, fully funded form of health care, shitheels like Andy Stern and Ron Gettelfinger would become much more answerable to the rank and file, who would have less to lose if the union bosses threatened vengeful decertifications. That would never do.

It's going to take some heavy pounding to get anything half decent through the stooges and hacks of the Democratic Party. I think they'd prefer to lose elections and take their chances in the "private" sector. As they're worthless themselves, in majority or opposition, that's where they're headed in 2010. Then they can spend the rest of Obama's presidency in feckless beautiful losing and whining about the Republicans. Safe again, just like the Bush years.

Posted by: Jim on August 4, 2009 1:54 AM
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