Imagine you are running your own company – or perhaps you already do. Would it help if you were relieved of the burden of locating and providing health care benefits for your employees? Do you think that workers who were able to obtain medical care when needed without having to worry about the cost might be more productive and have fewer absences from the job?
Naysayers and critics have often claimed that the kind of guaranteed, universal health care system enjoyed by most people in the world outside the U.S. will destroy jobs, cut into profit margins and increase tax burdens on business and individuals. They’ve given it labels such as “socialistic” and “redistributive.” Yet Fortune, the quintessential journal of capitalism, recently published an article by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, outlining exactly why businesses – large, medium and small – actually would benefit from such a system, and therefore, should be in full support of it.
Senator Sanders, a self-identified Democratic Socialist, has repeatedly pointed out that the U.S. spends nearly $10,000 per capita annually on health care. On the average, this is twice what is spent in other advanced, industrialized nations, including France and Canada (approximately $4600), Germany ($5550) and the U.K. (just under $4200). That comes to 17% of the U.S. GDP. In contrast, other nations spend an average of 10%.
While the Affordable Care Act has certainly done a fine job of getting more Americans covered, it has failed to address the root of the problem: the profit motive and the extreme waste and corruption that accompanies it in this context. Senator Sanders explains,
“The ongoing failure of our health care system is directly attributable to the fact that it is largely designed not to provide quality care in a cost-effective way, but to make maximum profits for health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and medical equipment suppliers”
“Not only is our dysfunctional health care system causing unnecessary suffering and financial stress for millions of low- and middle-income families, it is also having a very negative impact on our economy and the business community—especially small- and medium-sized companies.”
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, our “system” cost privately-owned and run companies a whopping $637 billion in 2015. That figure is expected to exceed $1 trillion by the middle of the next decade.
At the same time, business owners must expend massive resources in locating and securing the “best deals” on health coverage – and insurance carriers do not make this easy. Even when such “deals” are found, the amount of money that is wasted on “fees” and “administrative costs” having nothing to do with health care service delivery is appalling.
Richard Master, owner and CEO of MCS Industries Inc., points out that his company shells out $1.5 million a year in order to provide health coverage to his employees and their families. “When I investigated where all the money goes, I was shocked,” he told Common Dreams in November 2015. He discovered that one-third of all money spent on health care premiums had “nothing to do with the delivery of health care.”
At the same time, Pennsylvania business owner and staunch Republican David Steil has said, “Conservatives should be supportive of single payer because it costs less.” He adds,
“When they look at a single payer model, they will come quickly to the conclusion that it is the least expensive, the most supportive of a free market, and will have the most direct effect on the costs of their operation.”
So there it is. The supposedly “pro-business” GOP legislature has been arguing for years that guaranteeing health care as a right to all Americans will hurt companies and stifle economic growth. Increasingly, the business community begs to differ – and the evidence to the contrary is clear. Yes, taxes will increase – but would you rather pay that money directly to the government, knowing that you will get the health care services you need when you need them, or to private corporations whose sole interest is profit, which determines what services you will receive, when you will receive them – or if they will provide those services at all? Because we all pay for it, one way or another.
It is well past time for the U.S. to join the rest of the world.