Commentary

New York Times Trashes Single-Payer Healthcare

single-payerIn an article in the Sunday New York Times, headlined “Medicare for All? ‘Crazy,’ ‘Socialized’ and Unlikely,” reporter Katherine Q. Seelye did her best to damn the idea of government insurance for all with faint praise.

To begin her article, Seelye quoted from a 2005 episode of the NBC drama “West Wing,” in which two presidential candidates, a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and a Republican played by the always loveable Alan Alda, are discussing health care reform. The Smits character says his “ideal plan” would be Medicare for all.

“That’s crazy” counters the Alda Republican. Then Seelye sequed to an opinion piece recently penned by real-life one-time Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (a noble figure who nonetheless has long-since been type-cast as an out-of-touch extreme liberal loser), who favors expansion of Medicare into a national single-payer system.

Turning to the real world, Seelye then trotted out several economists, ostensibly to give a broad spectrum of arguments about the idea of single-payer, but in fact carefully avoiding including anyone who actually supports the idea of expanding Medicare.

As her representative liberal, she quoted Brandeis economist Stuart Altman, an Obama adviser during the presidential campaign, who said that while he is not “ideologically uncomfortable” with expanding Medicare, such a move would be “disruptive.” Going then to what she described as “the other end of the political spectrum,” Seeley quoted Robert E Moffit, of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who claimed Medicare would mean too much government power over heatlh care.”

Finally, seeking what she could call middle ground, Seelye turned to Dartmouth economist Jonathan Skinner, who claimed that expanding Medicare would be good because it would cover everyone, but bad because it would mean tripling the Medicare tax, currently 2.9 percent of paychecks.  If we were looking at a political yardstick here, Seelye started at the 16” mark (Altman), then went to the 36” mark (Moffit), and finally went to the 24” mark (Skinner).

But where was an economist from the real left end of the political spectrum, over in the single digits of that yardstick? Altaman, representing the private insurance-based Obama approach, was hardly it!

Seelye might have gone to her colleague, columnist Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Princeton, who has on a number of occasions written and stated that a single-payer system such as Medicare for all would be “far cheaper” than any private insurance-based system. Krugman, at least, would be over by the 10” or 12” line on a political yardstick.

Never has the Times really analyzed the true costs and benefits of the plan espoused in a bill, HR 676, authored by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, D-MI, which would expand Medicare to cover every American. Seelye mentions Rep. Conyers’ bill, but says innocently that it is “going nowhere” in the House. In fact, his bill, despite having been co-sponsored by 86 members of the House, has been blocked from getting a public hearing in committee by Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership, at the behest of the Obama White House, which is dead-set against a single-payer reform of health care.

The reason the Times and the insurance industry-besotted White House and Congressional leadership don’t want that analysis is that it would show clearly that a single-payer system would mean vast savings for all Americans.

Seelye quotes economist Skinner as claiming that Medicare expansion to cover every American would mean a tripling of the Medicare payroll tax—currently set at 2.9 percent of wages. But even if we accepted Skinner’s math, it is meaningless without looking at the savings side.

Sure expanding Medicare would mean higher Medicare taxes, but what about the following:

Medicaid, the program that pays for medical care for the poor, and is funded by federal and state taxes, would be eliminated, saving $400 billion a year.

Veterans’ care, currently running at $100 billion a year, would be eliminated.

Perhaps two-thirds of the $300 billion a year spent by federal, state and local governments to reimburse hospitals for so-called “charity care” for treatment of people who have no insurance but don’t qualify for Medicaid, would be eliminated.

Individuals and employers would no longer have to pay for private insurance.

Several hundred billion dollars currently spent on paperwork by private insurers would be eliminated.

Car insurance would be cheaper as there would no longer have to be coverage for medical bills.

Federal, state and local governments would no longer have to pay to insure public employees.

In short, if every person were on Medicare, the overall savings would overwhelm the small increase in the Medicare payroll tax of 5.8 percent.

The bottom line is that Canadians, who have Medicare for all, devote 10 percent of GDP to health care. Americans, who have private-insurance-based health care except for the elderly, devote 17 percent of GDP to health care.

Seelye and the Times have never mentioned any of this. Neither does President Obama or the Democratic Congress.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He is author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003) and more recently of The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at thiscantbehappening.net

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2 Responses for “New York Times Trashes Single-Payer Healthcare”

  1. Michael McManus says:

    Greetings,

    The math here is bit odd so let me provided a few comments. Currently, medicare budgets top $425B and medicaide (Federal) is $259B while States contribute another $259B (Federal Gov matches State funds). Using the figure of $200B of additional funds for Hostpitals and $100B for Veterans yields a total of 1.24 trillion dollars of cost prior to including anyone else in the plan. The current revenue from medicare taxes (2.9%) as detailed in the Presidents budget is $191B. If we divide this by 2.9% we get the US national medicare wage base supporting the $191B in revenue or $6.586 trillion dollars. Therefore, in order to generate $1.24 trillion dollars of revenue, the Medicare tax would have to be $1.24 trillion / $191B x 2.9% = 18.8%. Now given we are deficit spending to cover these costs, we have to first pay this additioinal straight payroll tax (All Americans 50% employee and 50% employer) just to make up the difference thus covering Federal and State deficit medical spending. Now of course we can start to think about providing for our health care costs. Now think of the Self Employeed guy who would pays the full 18.8% and then self-employment tax (15.2% – 2.9%) + 18.8% = 31.1% for both Social Security and Medicare taxes prior to payment of any Federal, State, City income taxes, State and City Sales taxes, Property taxes, Sin Taxes, Gas Taxes, Tolls and Registration Fees. If he makes $100K per year he willl need food stamps to get by.. Oh but now he cant afford health insurance because he paid for all the medical costs of the needy so we will fine him for this most irresponsible behavior.

  2. 3/14/2010
    What about a United health care Forum, that states, to be a part of by freedom of choice ?
    There is a unity lost between Governing Parties that is needed to help the people feel secure. The moral building block for Health Care.
    To see the true Health Care Tax forum you must stop thinking in 3-D,This multi tax forum is against a $100 Trillion Dollar system.. …
    To force pay into another system of failures within Health Care Insurance Groups.
    This economy will not balance with this concept of a tax forum against the Health Care System. The issue of how to force pay into this system of Health Care may have worked but I am still troubled over the progressive tax forum within this Bill. It covers so many items and Countries that it only forces the system to adjust itself. In some areas, increases against the people and the troubled economy, and in other areas, less effects will be felt.
    But this is my big problem, Government Officials seek help and they are to proud to ask us, “the true working force of Government.” It is understandable they have failed the People and within the United States Of America all we ask is to see us as who we are and not try to bring us into this world of the intellectual. I guess our Prime Directive is that of Star Trek, so it must be understood that for millions of people we are just as happy as can be making $13.00 per hour and we have no interest in this world of politics, and how to be a Enstine. Government Officials must understand that there is a level of people within different parts of this Country, that seek to be only that they find to make them happy.
    As for this economy well, it is said that the U.S.A. Arms Division has created enough arsenal to destroy every last creature in the world 2 times over,built with tax dollars. This would be funny if not for the irony of it. And now as time has passed Government Officials keep failing. Before 9/11 all the way to today.
    As it is in a world of a system, when employees continue to fail, one or two things happen, one; you get fired, two; if you see into a person a good, then it is political correct to implement a penalty or roll back in pay. But this implement of penalty is more favored in the course of action in the Federal Employment World. So how to fix the economy and unite it with the Health Care issue. It would be in the Countries best interest to implement a 10% per cent penalty against every State, County and Government Official within this Matrix of failures. Hey what is that old saying, what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander. I am serous about this, it is past due to show that our Government Officials they have failed, their system failure reaches into this world of warnings that they brush aside as if the information is not worthy noting. From Pearl Harbor to 9/11/2001 to 3/07/2010 of our tax system and Health Care Reform. This 10% per cent penalty should go into the Health Care Forum.
    The big problem that Government Officials have is that they have no street credit. President Obama still has some but if he does not take his family and step away from these dueling Parties, that fight over this Health Care Dollar, and stand with Us he will lose all credit from the streets to the county.
    President Obama, I would say to you, you have one last chance to regain the hopes and dreams of the American People. To reach out in a concept that states, if there is 250 million people in trouble because of these failures, I would give all my money to them and then I would say to all that I gave money to, “I have no money left, would you all please give me $1.00 back and then I would have $250. million dollars to start all over again.”

    As for this $100,trillion dollar in site………….
    Results 1 – 10 of about 685,000 for net worth of medicine development industry
    Just to show how deep this Health Care Tax split petition reaches. The term split petition is used because of the Tax factor plan that is not seen because of the intent not to show a capital Taxing of close to a $100 trillion dollar package, a yearly system income, not profit…..

    Some have stated that I clam to have spiritual in site or something of the sort. I assure you this is not true, so when I state that I asked God to help, it is my way of saying hey Bobby show me how to work on theses Chevy engines. But I do thank you for the consideration. Consider me a cross of Jethro Bodine from the Beverly Hill Billies with my 10th. Grade education and Vin Diesel from the move Pitch Black.
    So drop on by and see page 100 at our site and follow the blue pill link

    Health Care within a moral value, is to ,

    { GIVE LIFE TO HOPE WHERE THERE IS NONE }

    Henry Massingale
    FASC Concepts in and for Pay It Forward
    http://www.fascmovement.mysite.com on google. yahoo, and Aol.com
    please take the time and visit all my new friends on the net and if you wish to post with FASC Concepts you will be most welcomed. So join us and share your ideas as one in one voice.

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