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Subject: qotd: Can we talk about single payer? (Flowers, Baker & Folbre)
Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2013 12:47:07 -0800
From: Don McCanne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <email@example.com>
The Real News
October 1, 2013
Obamacare Debate: Flowers vs. Baker
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: With us to discuss the Affordable
Care Act are Dean Baker and Dr. Margaret Flowers. Dr. Flowers joins us
in-studio. She's a pediatrician in the Baltimore area and the Maryland
chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program cochair, and she's
the secretary of health for the Green Shadow Cabinet… And joining us
from Washington, D.C., is Dean Baker. He's the codirector of the Center
for Economic and Policy Research.
DEAN BAKER, CODIRECTOR, CEPR: There's lots of grounds for criticizing
the ACA. But this is a huge step forward. We're going to have tens of
millions of people that will be able to get insurance who haven't had it
previously. And, again, for the 100-plus million who are now insured,
they will actually have real insurance, because if they do get sick,
lose their job, they'll still in most cases be able to get affordable
insurance through the exchanges. So I have to see that as a big step
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let's have Dr. Flowers respond to that. Do you see
that as a step forward?
DR. MARGARET FLOWERS, COCHAIR, PNHP: No, I actually see the Affordable
Care Act as a step backwards. It takes us farther in the direction of
privatized health care. And the way that we really need to go is towards
greater--a publicly financed universal health care system. That's the
most efficient and most equitable way to provide health care…
BAKER: Well, it'd be great to have, you know, universal Medicare, but
that wasn't about to be coming. So basically our choice is having health
care provided through private insurers or not having it at all. And the
fact is, we have 100-plus million people who get most of their health
care through private insurers now. And yeah, they do lots of bad things,
but the alternative is not getting it all. So I can't somehow tell
people they're better off not getting health care than having it
provided through private insurers, as much as I may not like them.
DESVARIEUX: But is that true? Is that really the alternative? We only
have two choices here?
FLOWERS: No. And, actually, during the health reform debate, a point
that we were making, especially towards the end when it looked like the
Affordable Care Act was going to go through, was don't give hundreds of
millions of dollars in subsidies to private insurance companies where
they're going to hang on to a lot of that and still deny people care. We
should be giving that to our public programs to expand them more and
really shift us in the direction we need to go, towards a greater
publicly financed health care system.
Part of the reason that the Affordable Care Act went through is that it
wasn't challenged by people on the left, by people that supported
single-payer. People were told, well, this is all that we can get, and
so they accepted that.
The New York Times
November 25, 2013
The Single-Payer Alternative
By Nancy Folbre
Rush Limbaugh's take on the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care
Act could, ironically, warm the hearts of those at the other end of the
political spectrum. He contends that President Obama knew all along that
the Affordable Care Act would crash and burn, but pushed it through so
that the conflagration would clear the way for single-payer health
Yet one of the greatest advantages of a single-payer system — its
relatively low administrative costs — has been thrown into sharp relief
by problems registering with the new health exchanges.
In theory, competition and choice should increase efficiency. In
practice, health insurance companies are able to take advantage of the
complexity and uncertainty surrounding health care choices to make
comparison shopping very difficult.
The process of negotiating relationships with new health care providers
because old ones are "out of network" is physically and emotionally
exhausting. Insurance companies benefit from promoting policies that are
difficult to understand and make consumers fearful of any change in
David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, co-founders of Physicians for
a National Health Program, regularly assert that elimination of the huge
paperwork and overhead imposed by private insurance companies could save
enough to cover the estimated 31 million of Americans who will remain
uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.
My fellow Economix blogger Uwe E. Reinhardt, expanding on this theme,
notes that the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences
recently estimated excess administrative costs of $191 billion, again
more than enough to attain truly universal health care coverage.
Most such estimates are limited to the monetary costs incurred by
insurers, doctors and hospitals and don't include the value of the time
that health care consumers must devote to managing a torrent of
inscrutable paperwork that can become truly frightening for the
A single-payer insurance system, whether based on an extension of
Medicare or on the Canadian model, promises many profoundly important
benefits. Right off the mark, it promises simplicity.
No wonder conservative pundits are afraid of it.
(Nancy Folbre is professor emerita of economics at the University of
Comment: Experts across the political spectrum have long understood how
much more effective a single payer system would be in achieving our
goals of universality, comprehensiveness and affordability than is our
current financing infrastructure that was left in place by the
Affordable Care Act. When this fact was so obvious at the time reform
was being crafted, even to President Obama, then why did we reject
single payer in favor of our highly flawed system?
It was the progressive community, of all people, that took it off of the
table. The words of Dean Baker echo the prevailing view of many
progressives at that time: "Well, it'd be great to have, you know,
universal Medicare, but that wasn't about to be coming. So basically our
choice is having health care provided through private insurers or not
having it at all."
So the view was, single payer is the system that will work for us, so
let's choose between expanding our current dysfunctional system of
private insurers or let's have nothing at all. Talk about a non sequitur!
Two developments stem from this unwise choice in reform, both related to
how unsatisfactory the policies are - costly but all too ineffective. On
the one hand, the conservatives opposed to any effective reform are
telling us that things are in such a mess that we will have to resort to
single payer to bail us out. On the other hand, many progressives, like
Professor Nancy Folbre, are now motivated to speak up in favor of single
payer since the Affordable Care Act clearly is going to fall intolerably
short of our goals. Most moderates and even some conservatives
understand the imperative of single payer.
The point is that now is the time to talk about single payer, with a
loud and clear voice. As the deficiencies in the Affordable Care Act
become ever more obvious to the public at large, they need to know that
there is a way out. Let's hear it, loud and clear now: *We should have
gone for single payer… and we still can!*