Liberals and conservatives may be duking it out over the issue of universal healthcare, but more than a few participants at the Health Industry Group Purchasing Associations 2007 International Expo, held Oct. 22-24 in Palm Desert, Calif., said the outcome of the fight is a foregone conclusion: Like it or not, within the next few years the U.S. is going to have a nationwide, single-payer system.
In one way or another, were going to have universal healthcare, because you cant have a business where half of the possible customers cant afford the product, said Joe Flower during a HIGPA conference breakout session on the future of healthcare.
Flower, a self-dubbed healthcare futurist, consultant and author of several books on the business of healthcare, has written about the potential benefits of a single-payer system. He asserts that universal healthcare could ultimately promote efficiency; improve pricing and quality-of-service transparencies; and reduce administrative costs and health-cost-related bankruptcies.
And if those reasons dont get the average capitalist excited about universal healthcare, Flower has noted that it could also ease the financial burden on big businesses by spreading the cost of healthcare across a wider pool of financial supporters who pay into the system. Also, healthier workers would mean fewer sick days and fewer sick days ultimately mean more profitable businesses.
I, for one, believe the pronouncements that universal healthcare will soon be coming to a household near you are accurate. Not because Im naive enough to think that healthcare policymakers and politicians alike are finally seeing the moral value in having everyonetaxpayers and businesses alikepay to ensure each citizen, regardless of income, has access to a basic level of preventive care. But because even conservative, dont-put-your-government-paws-in-my-wallet types are acknowledging that the goal of universal healthcare can no longer be labeled a kumbaya concept trumpeted only by liberals. It seems the ire of 47 million uninsured Americansmany of them votersis a powerful enough motivator to sway even the staunchest fiscal conservative toward accepting the idea.
Dont believe me about conservative give on the issue? Well, let me suggest you talk to former Republican presidential candidate and conservative Pat Buchanan about universal healthcare. Buchanan and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of both the Hillary Clinton for President Exploratory Committee and the Democratic National Committee, were the featured guests at the HIGPA conferences debate-style dinner on Tuesday evening. Between partisan barbs the two political pundits actually agreed on an issue: It was that universal healthcare will soon be a reality in this country.
McAuliffes pronouncement during the dinner that universal healthcare is going to happen, and I dont care who the (next) president is, was hardly a surprise to the mostly Republican audience. Buchanans response, however, was probably a bit more novel to the expectant crowd. I agree, he said. The question that comes up now is: How are we going to pay for itespecially when Medicare and Medicaid are like Thelma and Louise going over the cliff?
Exactly how were going to pay for universal healthcare is the $110 billion question, the price range mentioned by presidential candidates brave enough to put a price tag on their plans.
If, as HIGPA conference participants suggested, leaders across partisan lines are getting onboard with the idea that universal healthcare will soon be reality, it seems now would be the time for politicians and healthcare lobbyists to take off the gloves and get down to the business of creating a coverage system everyone can live with.