Our print and electronic media inundate us almost daily with concerns about quality healthcare, or more accurately, the lack thereof, and in that flood there is a fair amount of misinformation. At the Business Alliance for a Healthy California (BA4HC) we believe there is an urgent need to unpack conflicting messages, and articulate a strategy for a high-functioning and equitable healthcare system from a business perspective.
What we know
In wealthy industrialized nations, except for the United States, healthcare is viewed as a citizen’s right guaranteed for all, not unlike public education, or public safety. It is not considered a “product” or “service” to be exploited for profit.
In the U.S. we pay far more for healthcare services—more than double the average of other developed nations—yet the results we get are inferior. The U.S. consistently ranks behind dozens of other countries in overall performance and accessibility. Millions of people remain uninsured or under-insured and therefore go without adequate care.
Medicare, our federal program for those 65 and over, manages to provide efficient health insurance at a fraction of the cost of private health carriers. It does so by using a “single payer system,” one in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes the financing, but the delivery of care remains in private hands. In this way, costs can be aggregated to achieve major savings in drugs and medical services. Such public administration enhances the delivery of care by private practitioners. Just ask elderly participants.
What we think
Conservatively, it is estimated that between 18 percent and 20 percent of overall healthcare costs can be saved by replacing bloated private insurance companies with a single payer system that has the ability to negotiate and regulate prices paid to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other service providers. Several academic studies back up these numbers, including a recent study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Such ongoing savings would permit all residents, documented or not, to receive affordable, quality healthcare without worrying about deductibles, co-pays, in system/out system providers or the full array of other constraints.
More and more people are realizing that the time has come to adopt a “Medicare for all,” type healthcare system. This long overdue reform is now politically achievable, though not without what will surely be a fierce battle with the powerful health insurance, hospital administration and drug industries, all of which are looking out for their bottom lines.
What we are doing in California
Since it is highly unlikely that a systemic solution will come from Washington in the foreseeable future, The Healthy California Campaign, of which the Business Alliance is an active member, is supporting adoption of California SB 562, which is essentially Medicare for all. The bill has passed in the State Senate, but needs additional support to clear the Assembly and move onto the governor’s desk
Healthcare is a business issue
BAHC recognizes that our broken system is not simply a health and human rights problem, but also a crippling impediment to business expansion and employment growth.
Healthcare costs can consume as much as 22 percent of payroll expenditures for small businesses offering benefits. Famed investor Warren Buffet was right when he called healthcare the “tapeworm of the American economy.” The single payer approach is a money saver.
By not promoting workers health, our system generates absenteeism that hurts workplace performance and moral. Far too many resources are squandered on time-consuming back-office administration. Lack of universal care creates barriers for startups as would-be entrepreneurs hesitate to launch for fear of losing company-tied health insurance.
Despite what the insurance, hospital, and drug sectors may tell us, SB 562 is business friendly for the great majority of us. In fact, it is especially friendly for small business by leveling the playing field for employee hiring and retention.
Make no mistake SB 562 will not become law without significant support from the 3.5 million small enterprises in California, which employ over six million people. We strongly encourage owners and workers at these businesses to inform themselves of what is at stake, and take action.
—Eric Leenson, Dan Geiger
Co-directors Business Alliance for a Healthy California
BAHC is a fiscally sponsored project of the American Sustainable Business Council, a nonprofit organization. BAHC is dedicated to bringing universal care to Californians. Educational materials are available at BA4HCal.org
Story by: Dan Geiger and Eric Leenson, BAHC