Another reason why we need universal healthcare

NYT: “But more than rate cuts or bursts of spending, economists say, the best short-term measures to prevent an economic downturn may be “automatic stabilizers” — existing programs or regulations that protect workers, provide low-cost health care or help companies get through a lean period. Some of these measures were adopted during another time of financial stress: the 2008 financial crisis.

“Assurances that many workers won’t have to choose between caring for their health and paying their rent is a crucial psychological factor as Italy and France shut hundreds of schools, Britain unlocks an “action plan” to prevent the virus’s spread and businesses across the Continent cancel trips and meetings to limit their employees’ exposure to the epidemic.”

More importantly, workers with paid sick time are more likely to stay home when sick and people with guaranteed access to healthcare (that won’t bankrupt them) will seek treatment promptly when sick and get the treatment (and quarantine, if necessay) they need. Our lack of universal coverage and reasonable sick leave policies endangers us all.

Europe’s social policies are sometimes seen as overly generous. Yet they may help cushion the economic impact of the virus.

We desperately need healthcare reform

Nicholas Kristof in the NYT: “Democrats’ internecine battle over so-called Medicare for all is largely irrelevant, because the plan won’t get through Congress. What’s imperative is simply achieving universal medical and dental coverage, either by a single-payer system (like Britain’s) or a multipayer system (like Germany’s); both work fine. What matters is the universal part.

“In some ways, America’s health care is outstanding. Specialized anti-cancer treatments are saving lives. But over all our system has two fundamental flaws.

“First, outcomes are mediocre and inequitable. Rich Americans live 20 years longer than poor Americans, and low-income American men have approximately the longevity of men living in Sudan. …

“The second fundamental problem with our health care system is that it delivers these second-rate outcomes at enormous cost.”

I would add that the coronavirus is a strong argument in favor of universal health coverage. Sick people with health coverage seek and get the care (and quarantine, if necessary) that they need. Sick people with no or inadequate coverage tend to avoid seeking treatment. That puts us all at risk.

China?s failures on the coronavirus are distracting us from the mess we have at home.

Reality’s a bitch

Still, if every other advanced economy manages it, there’s no reason why we can’t. But perhaps we should work with what we have and fix that first (i.e., shore up the faltering ACA exchanges).

“Don’t sell an idea to Americans that you can’t achieve,” the former governor said. “That’s the mistake I made.”

A plea for pragmatism

Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “Every two years the Commonwealth Fund provides an invaluable survey of major nations’ health care systems. America always comes in last; in the latest edition, the three leaders are Britain, Australia and the Netherlands.

“What’s remarkable about those top three is that they have radically different systems. Britain has true socialized medicine — direct government provision of health care. Australia has single-payer — it’s basically Bernie down under. But the Dutch rely on private insurance companies — heavily regulated, with lots of subsidies, but looking more like a better-funded version of Obamacare than like Medicare for All. And the Netherlands actually tops the Commonwealth Fund rankings.

“So which system should Democrats advocate? The answer, I’d argue, is the system we’re most likely actually to create — the one that will play best in the general election, and is then most likely to pass Congress if the Democrat wins.”

Republicans Killed Much Of Obamacare Without Repealing It

From FiveThirtyEight: “We don’t really know exactly how a program written and designed like Obamacare originally was would truly work — and we probably never will find out. The Republicans have blocked, slowed or impeded so much of the law that what’s left in its place is something like Obamacare Lite or Obamacare Version 0.75. Republicans will probably keep trying to destroy the current system — and Democrats now want something new and improved.”