The brilliance of Paul Krugman isn't in his style or his ability to pull off a nattily-attired phrase (although he does both with great skill). It's in his ability to discover that which the opposition has tried so hard to obfuscate. His subject this week? The health-care situation in the US.
Of course health-care is a major issue in the US. If you don't have it, you're taking a major chance. If you do, you're probably worried about losing it, as the Gallup poll Krugman quotes indicates. And indeed, the President's economic report devotes an entire chapter to it.
Problem is, it's treated much like global warming is by this administration--it's not really a problem and even if it is, there's not much we can do about it anyway.
Although more than 40 million people lack health insurance, this doesn't matter too much because "the uninsured are a diverse and perpetually changing group." This is good news? At any given time about one in seven Americans is uninsured, which is bad enough. Because the uninsured are a "perpetually changing group," however, a much larger fraction of the population suffers periodic, terrifying spells of being uninsured, and an even larger fraction lives with the fear of losing insurance if anything goes wrong at work or at home.That pretty much describes me to a tee. The only reason I have health insurance right now is because Stanford requires it as a matter of enrollment (and I can't afford it at that). But once I leave here, I'll be without it again, and the coverage I could most use right now (vision and dental) I don't have.
I don't know if Krugman is being sarcastic with his next point, or what, but while he gives the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt by saying:
The report also seems to have missed the point of health insurance. It argues that it would be a good thing if insurance companies had more information about the health prospects of clients so "policies could be tailored to different types and priced accordingly." So if insurance companies develop a new way to identify people who are likely to have kidney problems later in life, and use this information to deny such people policies that cover dialysis, that's a positive step?he fails to note that this kind of rhetoric is typical of the Bush administration. Bush is looking out for the insurance companies, not for the people who need the insurance. And why, after three years of this, should we expect anything less? If Bush has an option between doing something for the Lords or the Serfs, he takes the Lords every time.
One last point, and only because I didn't know this going in. To all those people who continually argue that the private sector is so much more efficient that the government,
A recent study found that private insurance companies spend 11.7 cents of every health care dollar on administrative costs, mainly advertising and underwriting, compared with 3.6 cents for Medicare and 1.3 cents for Canada's government-run system.No wonder there's so much opposition to a single-payer plan in the US.
I mean, I tried my hand at selling insurance many, many years ago and sold exactly one policy that was cancelled before it was even delivered--you can use that as a basis for a judgment of my honesty if you wish, since I've never heard of a person too crooked to make it in the insurance biz (I failed at selling used cars too)--but even with my limited experience in the field, I had no idea that the business was that inefficient. Is it too late to give Kucinich's plan a second look? I'm not suggestng he ought to be the candidate, but let's dust off his single-payer plan and give it a look, why don't we?