May 5, 2017


Trump Praises Australia's Universal Health Care, Says It's Better Than U.S. System (Margaret Hartmann, 5/05/17, New York)

President Trump has praised universal health care on many occasions, even dating back to his 2000 book The America We Deserve, but when questioned about this during the campaign, he said he doesn't think single-payer health care would work in the United States. Trump stirred more confusion in January when he said he was working on a plan that provided "insurance for everybody."

The issue of where Trump really stands on health care appeared to be resolved on Thursday when he gathered House Republicans to celebrate the passage of a bill that will cost 24 million Americans their coverage by 2026, or maybe even more.

But it wasn't settled at all. Hours later, during his delayed meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday night, President Trump declared that Australian has better health care system than the United States.

On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer predicts America will have single-payer health care within 7 years (The Week, 5/05/17)

"I saw a piece this week entitled 'The Conservative Case for Single-Payer,'" Carlson said. "I'm not sure most conservatives are there yet, but do you think that's where it's going?" Krauthammer said yes. "Whether it will end up single-payer, like in the Canadian system, or not, I'm not sure, but I will guarantee you this," he said: "Within a few years there won't even be an argument about whether or not government has an obligation to ensure that everybody gets health coverage."

A conservative case for single-payer health care (Matthew Walther, May 3, 2017, The Week)

Nearly everyone agrees that our semi-private insurance-driven system is mad. It makes all the logistical sense of having the clerk at the Shell station file a claim with Geico every time you put gas in your car. The Affordable Care Act exacerbated everything wrong with the present arrangement by creating a permanent carve-out for insurance companies. Millions of Americans were left feeling the way villagers would have if the Magnificent Seven had shown up at the last minute and thrown in their lot with the bandits.

Meanwhile, conservatives insist on getting rid of the only good part of the legislation: the expansion of Medicaid. This is not because it hasn't worked but because it conflicts with Republicans' increasingly ethereal principles. Put aside for a moment the question of whether it would be desirable to return to those halcyon days when simple country doctors gave big bills to the rich, smaller ones to ordinary people, and treated the poor gratis. Is it even possible, much less feasible? No one, not even Tea Party members during the movement's heyday, has been clamoring at the door to get rid of Medicare. Even if their wildest dreams came true and they managed to get government out of health care altogether, what would happen to people in the meantime while their hypothetical army of altruist medicos mustered its forces?

The solution should be obvious. Single payer is the only way forward. The U.S. government should provide health insurance for every one of its citizens.

Already I hear the chorus of well-rehearsed objections from the right. Who's going to pay for it? Please. Every other wealthy country in the world ensures universal health-care coverage, and we are spending far more than any of them to let people above the bottom and well into what remains of the middle fall through the cracks. What about innovation? they say, as if Costa Rica, with a GDP smaller than New Hampshire's, were not a leader in the treatment of diseases such as pancreatic cancer and a destination for innovation-seeking medical tourists from around the world. (It is curious how this objection never seems to spring up in the case of the military. Should we privatize that too, lest we fall behind the denizens of the SeaOrbiter in the quest for better fighter jets?)

Single payer just isn't "conservative." Of course it is, at least if the word still means anything. Conservatism is about stability and solidarity across class boundaries, not a fideistic attachment to classical liberal dogma. When Winston Churchill's Conservative Party returned to power in the U.K. in 1951, they did not attempt to dismantle the National Health Service established six years earlier by the post-war Labour government. They tried to do a better job of running it. Conservatives in this country should get used to the idea of being prudent stewards of the welfare state, not its would-be destroyers.

Then there is the old concern about "rationing," with which I must admit to very little patience, probably because, like the claret-soaked Tories of old, I am not myself terribly interested in health. I have no doubt that if America were to adopt a single-payer system, those with sprained ankles or runny noses would indeed face longer lines. This is a good thing. Health is not the be-all end-all of human existence, and half the reason care costs what it does is that providers across the country know that they can charge BlueCross whatever they want when wealthy suburban mothers bring Dylan in after soccer practice for X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and goodness knows what other radiological marvels, when what he really needs is a $1 ice pack.

Putting the government in charge of health care would restore it to its proper place in our lives. If conservatives' worst fears turn out to be justified, then visiting the doctor will become a very occasional half-day-long exercise in mandatory tedium, like going to the DMV or having your passport renewed. I do not visit the clinic down the street for aches or minor ailments, much less stop in to see my non-existent family physician to engage in morbid speculations concerning the potential diseases to which I might one day succumb -- and neither should you.

Posted by at May 5, 2017 5:43 AM