Quote-of-the-day mailing list
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: qotd: Canadian businessmen perplexed by U.S. health care
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2013 09:30:10 -0700
From: Don McCanne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <email@example.com>
The Washington Post
September 25, 2013
Canadians don't understand Ted Cruz's health care battle
By Matt Miller
When you're being forced to endure another rabid Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)
on Obamacare's threat to human freedom, it's easy to forget how absurd
our health-care debate seems to the rest of the civilized world. That's
why it's bracing to check in with red-blooded, high testosterone
capitalists north of the border in Canada — business leaders who love
Canada's single-payer system
(a regime far to the "left" of Obamacare) and see it as perfectly
consistent with free market capitalism.
Take David Beatty
a 70-year-old Toronto native who ran food processing giant Weston Foods
and a holding company called the Gardiner Group during a career that has
included service on more than 30 corporate boards and a recent
appointment to the Order of Canada, one of the nation's highest honors.
By temperament and demeanor, Beatty is the kind of tough-minded,
suffer-no-fools wealth creator who conservatives typically cheer.
Yet over breakfast in Toronto not long ago, Beatty told me how baffled
he and Canadian business colleagues are when they listen to the U.S.
health-care debate. He cherishes Canada's single-payer system for its
quality and cost-effectiveness (Canada boasts much lower costs per
than the United States). And don't get him started on the system's
administrative simplicity — you just show your card at the point of
service, and that's it. Though he's a well-to-do man who can pay for
whatever care he wants, Beatty told me he's relied on the system just as
ordinary Canadians do, including for a recent knee replacement
operation. The one time he went outside the system was to pay extra for
a physical therapist closer to his home than the one to which he'd been
It's just "common sense" in Beatty's view that government takes the lead
in assuring basic health security for its citizens. He's amazed at the
contortions of the debate in the United States, and wonders why big U.S.
companies "want to be in the business of providing health care anyway"
("that's a government function," he says simply). Beatty also marvels at
the way the U.S. regime's dysfunction comes to dominate everyday
conversation. He shakes his head recalling how much time and passion
American friends devoted one evening to comparing notes on their various
supplemental Medicare plans. Talk about your sparkling dinner conversation.
Roger Martin <http://rogerlmartin.com/>, another Toronto native and
avowed capitalist, spent years as a senior partner at the consulting
firm Monitor before becoming dean of the Rotman School of Management at
the University of Toronto, where he recently completed a 15-year stint.
He advises U.S. corporate icons like Proctor & Gamble and Steelcase. He
lived in the United States for years and has experienced both systems
Martin told me that Canada's lower spending, better outcomes and
universal coverage make it superior by definition. Plus, it's
"incredibly hassle-free." In the United States every time he took his
kids in for an earache his wife spent hours fighting with the health
plan or filling out reams of paperwork. In Canada, he says, "the entire
administrative cost is pulling your card out of your pocket, giving it
to them and putting it back."
There's more. Canadian divisions of multinational firms love Canada's
system because when they bid on projects they have no health costs to
load in. Also, there's no crazy "job lock" as with the employer-based
system in the United States — where people with (say) a sick child cling
to their job for fear of being pronounced uninsurable. His peers, he
says, view the U.S. debate as "ideological and not based on economics."
"The whole single payer thing just makes sense," Martin adds. "You don't
spend time trying to shift costs." It's hardly perfect: a few folks go
to the United States to jump the line on certain elective procedures,
and Canada, like others, free rides on American's investment in
pharmaceutical innovation (funded by higher U.S. drug prices). But, he
adds, "I literally have a hard time thinking of what would be better
than a single-payer system."
The moral of the story? Don't let the rants of cynical demagogues like
Cruz confuse you — it is entirely possible to be a freedom loving
capitalist and also believe in a strong government role in health care.
Remember, Obamacare features a much smaller such role than does Canada's
approach — or England's, where Margaret Thatcher would have been chased
from office for proposing anything as radically conservative as the
Affordable Care Act.
One well-known billionaire told me a few years back that the right
answer for the United States was single payer for basic coverage, with
the ability for folks to buy additional private supplements atop that.
But he won't say this in public; the gang at the club just wouldn't
understand. Maybe when U.S. business leaders muster the common sense of
their Canadian counterparts, they'll deliver the message the Ted Cruzes
of the world need to hear: sit down and shut up.
/Matt Miller writes a weekly column on economic and other domestic
policy issues. He is a senior fellow at the Center for American
Progress, the voice of the political "center" on public radio's "Left,
Right & Center," the host of the new podcast "This...Is Interesting." /
Comment: Businessmen in the United States need to listen to their
colleagues in Canada. They see single payer as being "perfectly
consistent with free market capitalism." "The whole single payer thing
just makes sense."
It should be noted that this Washington Post article was written by a
"voice of the political center" - Matt Miller. That single payer is
appropriately a centrist concept is demonstrated by the fact that it
fulfills the fundamental business principles of being efficient (lower
costs per person), effective (everyone is included), and of high quality
(better health outcomes).
(As an aside, regarding the well-known billionaire who recommended
single payer for basic coverage with private supplementary coverage for
other care, I should say that I wrote such a proposal right after the
failure of the Clinton reform effort. I submitted it to Claudia Fegan,
then president of PNHP, and she returned it smothered in red ink. That
is when I learned that I knew very little about health policy, so I have
studied it on a daily basis since. Simply stated, single payer needs to
be comprehensive enough such that no supplemental coverage would be
Incidentally, the hotlinks in the article on "Canada's single payer
system" and "lower costs per person" lead to two great articles on these
topics. If the links are not live in this email, they can be accessed in
the original article at the link above.