Study finds universal health care would cost less than bailouts
Joe Byrne
Published: Sunday March 1, 2009

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The biggest obstacle to an enhanced national health care system wouldn't be money, a study conducted by the Institute for Health and Socio-economic Policy found. The transformation of America's current health care system into a single-payer 'Medicare for all' system could cost six times less than the bank bailouts.

This week, Barack Obama is expected to start movement on an ambitious overhaul of the country's health care system. Previous attempts at reform by FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton have proved largely unsuccessful. 46 million Americans are without insurance, ABC reports, and the US spends twice as much on health care than the average developed nation, most of which work with universal health care. Critics of the current system point to the government treating health care as if it was a commodity, not a social service; because of the demands of the market, insurance companies have a motivation to avoid unprofitable patients.

Obama's plan, to be laid out in detail this week, will cost $634b out of the new overall budget. In addition, $175b that was to be payment to private insurers for the coverage of 10 million Medicare patients will be re-allocated over the next ten years' for health care reform. Yesterday, he asked Kathleen Sebellius to become his new Health and Human Services secretary. Scheduled on Thursday is a nonpartisan health care summit at the White House. "The cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year," Obama told Congress on Tuesday.

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private. The Institute for Health and Socio-economic Policy(IHSP) is a non-profit research group for the National Nurses Organizing Committee. According to the analysis of their proposal for a single-payer universal health care system, IHSP found that “full medicare benefits for all” would have these immediate effects:

* $317 billion in increased business and public revenues throughout the US economy.

* 2,613,495 new permanent jobs, at an average of $38,262 per year.

* $100 billion in additional employee compensation.

* $44 billion in increased tax revenue.
The biggest impact of the proposal would be coverage for the 46 million uninsured Americans, but 'Medicare for all' would also get rid of the “current chaos of eligibility, exclusions, family coverage, premium costs, and high out-of-pocket expense,” unenviable consequences of the present system. The full report can be found here.

A similar proposal for single-payer national health insurance was published by the American Medical Association in 2003. That study found that national health insurance would save the US $200b by “eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry and reducing spending for marketing and other satellite services.”

The debate over which health care system is best for America will almost certainly intensify in the coming weeks.

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