America’s Healthcare System is Putting Us at a Competitive Disadvantage

Throughout all of the debate about healthcare going on around the country, there has been one crucial aspect missing from the dialogue: where our healthcare system puts us in a globalized political economy.  The United States is the only industrialized nation that lacks universal healthcare, despite the fact that we spend more per capita on healthcare than any other industrialized nation.  Even some developing countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Peru have universal health care programs.  In a globalized world where people regularly work or study in foreign countries, our lack of universal healthcare is negatively affecting our economy.

While Republicans (and some Democrats) in Congress are claiming that universal health care or even a public option would hurt businesses (particularly small businesses), this is not necessarily the case. Providing health insurance coverage for employees in the United States causes costs businesses extraordinary amounts of money, often resulting in lower wages or no health coverage at all for employees.  This puts the United States at a disadvantage economically because it discourages businesses (large and small) from operating in the United States.  For example, if you were the head of a major corporation and had the option of opening up a manufacturing plant in the United States or a country such as Japan, where taxes might be slightly higher, but you didn’t have to worry about providing your employees with insurance, which would you choose?  Most likely you would choose the country with universal healthcare.  Effects of this can be seen across the country as small businesses close their doors, fewer employers offer health benefits, and companies and workers leave for countries with universal healthcare.

Which brings me to another way in which America’s healthcare system is hurting our economy: human capital.  In a global political economy, it is not that difficult for an individual to go to university or work in a foreign country.  In fact, with fields such as engineering, law, and business become increasingly international, working in another country is becoming the norm.  The United States, however, is having trouble recruiting engineers, doctors, and architects from other countries, partially because we do not offer universal healthcare.  They just cannot fathom spending up to $20,000 a year on healthcare, when in their home countries it is provided for little to no cost, even if their salaries are higher in the U.S. Meanwhile, more and more Americans professionals (particularly younger ones) are accepting jobs outside of the United States. Similarly, universities in the United States are having trouble recruiting international applicants while more and more students from the U.S. are getting degrees abroad.  And I believe that healthcare plays an important role in that, as it can be one of the largest expenses a student has besides tuition.  Overall, universal healthcare cannot be discounted as a economic motivator for individuals.  And if the United States isn’t careful we may be losing all of our human capital to countries with universal healthcare, which would be detrimental to our economic future.

-Submitted By Chelsea Howard-Foley, Class of 2011

College Holds Health Care Forum

Dr. Margaret Flowers spoke in favor of a single-payer system at the College health care forum. (Photo by Dave Chase)
Dr. Margaret Flowers spoke in favor of a single-payer system at the College health care forum. (Photo by Dave Chase)

In response to the controversial meetings held by various members of Congress this summer, on Monday, Sept. 28, the College held its own open forum meeting on health care reform.

Beyond the Shouting: A Discussion of Health Care Reform in America was a program brought to the College by the Center for the Study of Democracy, Public Policy Studies, and Democracy Studies.  The forum involved three ideologically diverse panelists on the topic of health care reform, in which they discussed their thoughts on health care and then took questions from the audience full of students, faculty, and community members.

Dr. Margaret Flowers is a Congressional Fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program and discussed the benefits of a single-payer system of health care.  Greg Scandlen, a founder of Consumers for Health Care Choice, discussed consumer choice health reform.  The final panelist was Karen Davenport, Director of the Center for American Progress, who spoke on behalf of the current legislation being proposed and discussed in Congress.

Each panelist was given 10 minutes to discuss their stance on the reform and then took questions from the audience.  Professor Todd Eberly was the moderator for this forum and wanted to make sure that this session was about “information and dialogue not about the shouting.”  Eberly believed that this was a necessary forum to have because he felt that the education on reform that was provided by the government has been a loss and has not done a good job of assuaging popular fears about reform.

All of the speakers wanted to emphasize the need of health care reform.  Dr. Flowers called attention to the fact “that the United States is ranked 37 in the world on health care, yet we ranked number one in the amount of spending on health care each year.”  She believed in a single-payer system, which she stressed would be more cost effective than the current private system in place because it would simplify the “hugely ineffective system” administrative needs of the private system.

Professor Todd Eberly introduces the panalists at the start of the Healthcare Forum. (Photo by Dave Chase)
Professor Todd Eberly introduces the panalists at the start of the Healthcare Forum. (Photo by Dave Chase)

Greg Scandlen, an expert on health care financing, supported reform on individual choice.  He said that “empowering the consumer is the way to go in health care and that carefulness in how we use money will be what lowers cost.”

Karen Davenport spoke about legislation which is currently making its way through both houses of Congress.  She clarified that the purpose of the plans in Congress are to make health care affordable through tax credits and by expanding eligibility of Medicaid.  She also stressed the bill’s plan on making health care reliable through insurance market reform.  Ms. Davenport stated that the “cost over 10 years is the litmus test in Congress,” but that the Senate is looking at cost over 20 years to see a more overarching result of possible reforms.

All of the panelists stressed that this process of reform is going to take enormous amounts of time and effort and that we may not see any real results for some 10-15 years.  Professor Eberly summed it up when speaking about the policy of reform: “We will eventually get there… but some small steps are faster than a risky leap.”

President Obama's Healthcare Mistake: Bipartisanship

After a summer of brutal town halls, lunatic TV/Radio hosts and angry protesters, it’s hard to say that President Obama’s health care reform effort is where he, or the millions of Americans supporting him, hoped it would be. With three bills, two from the Senate and one from the House, floating around, it looks like the final bill will bring little more than further tweaks to the system, not the broad and comprehensive reform that is desired.

With large majorities in the House and Senate, the question of the day seems to be, “Why are the Democrats not getting more of what they want?” The answer is a fundamental misunderstanding, by both the President and the Democratic leadership, of the world of professional partisan politics.

The President’s mistake was letting the far right drive the debate. For months, we heard of socialized medicine, death panels, and a government take over of health care. Perhaps the most emblematic example of the Democrats’ complete failure to drive the debate was when one retiree stood up at a Town Hall meeting and said, “Keep government hands off my medicare!” Educating the public to both the needs and goals of reform should have been the President’s number one priority.

His bigger mistake was pushing for bipartisanship while the Democrats were running the show. The President, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid all assumed that if they produced legislation that incorporated Republican ideas, they would subsequently get Republican votes. Why would a single Republican vote for a bill that they have never been publicly asked to support, contribute ideas to, or even read, before it was publicly announced as the Democratic Healthcare Plan? The Republicans get many of reforms they want (more than they should — given their minority status) and they still get to blast the Democrats.

The President should have pushed for radical and comprehensive reform and then compromised, not just skip ahead to the compromising, without making the other side compromise too. Alexander Hamilton argued for a King so that he could get a strong executive because he understood that in a Democracy, compromise is king.

It will be interesting to see what the final bill will look like, but it is clear that Liberals across the country will not get the kind of reform they want; not because of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh but because the Democratic Leadership forgot, at least for a moment, how to play the game.