Health care and small business

A letter in today’s paper used as antonyms the terms “single payer health care advocates” and “small business owners.” Anybody else see the fallacy there?

Besides Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, say.

For years and years, American business organizations have been fighting for tariffs and trade restrictions on the grounds that those businesses have cost advantages because of, among other things, health care. So because the government-run health care costs businesses less in Canada, for example, the American industry lobbies claim they deserve protection from anti-competitive business practices elsewhere.

And when the auto industry constricted in the 1990s, the plants in Oakville, Ontario, largely stayed open, because the costs of government-run social programs, especially health care, provided a large cost benefit to the industry compared to plants in and around Detroit. So if comprehensive, universal health care is such a competitive advantage, why are business lobbies fighting it?

The answer is in two parts:

First, an enormous fear campaign, funded by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. For instance, it will surprise many Americans to discover that citizens elsewhere in the world are not constantly keeling over because they are taking generic drugs not manufactured in the USA (because, let’s face it, the American government’s record on food safety isn’t exactly pristine, from peanuts to salmonella-laced organic spinach).

Second, the well-off enjoy an excellent standard of care here in America, where the quality and speed of your treatment is directly proportional to the size of your bank account. A couple of years ago, Dartmouth Hitchcock ran an ad as part of a campaign, discussing how they had dispatched their D-HART medevac choppers to airlift this nice little old lady suffering from some sort of medical emergency, whisked her directly to the emergency room and saved her life. She was in her late 80s when this happened and was in her early 90s when the ad ran.

Nothing against this woman, but really, is that something to brag about? Spending $150,000 or $200,000 on heroic measures to prolong one octagenarian’s life by a few years when the country can’t be bothered to provide basic health care to millions of its citizens. Hospitals enjoy many benefits from society as a whole, from property tax waivers to infrastructure support, in return for providing care to all. But access isn’t evenly shared, and that tiered system is exactly what this fight is about. It’s a conflict over limited resources, and the haves aren’t in the mood for going into the risk pool without a private lifeguard standing by.

Yes, it is class warfare, and no, the poor didn’t start it.


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