It's a given that the government will be forced to take over health care. Just about every doctor I've ever questioned on the subject has said so, even though one consequence may be that doctors will lose income by becoming salaried employees rather than fee-for-service entrepreneurs (a system widely agreed to have increased the number of unnecessary and sometimes dangerous medical procedures). Will the cost be prohibitive? Obviously if more people have access to medical care, that will push costs up. At the same time, though, eliminating the ever-more-elaborate financial game-playing between insurers, doctors, and patients would save an enormous amount of money, and so would eliminating costly medical care required when a patient has failed to receive preventive care, which is comparatively inexpensive. Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration all have their faults, but they all manage to deliver health care more cheaply than private insurance, and the VA, which actually employs doctors and owns hospitals, is widely understood by experts to provide better care than private hospitals do. Krugman and Wells note that when Taiwan switched to a single-payer system in 1995, overall health-care costs went down:
"[T]he percentage of the population with health insurance soared from 57 percent to 97 percent, yet health care costs actually grew more slowly than one would have predicted from trends before the change in system."
The practicalities of politics may shun putting socialized medicine at the center of the Democratic agenda. But the practicalities of life demand it and will soon reverse the political calculus. People are dying, and corporations are going broke.
Let's get started.
The point was also made that hospitals are severely overloaded with the burden of treating the uninsured. We've simply got to do something. I hope the Democrats are paying attention.