January 13, 2006

Who's the winner in the battle over health care

An interesting front seems to be developing:

The Maryland legislature passed a law Thursday that would require Wal-Mart Stores to increase spending on employee health insurance, a measure that is expected to be a model for other states.

Responsible legislators realize their constituents ought to have access to decent health care. Sophists call sane single-payer health plans 'socialized medicine', so we can't even get that going in states such as Oregon or Washington yet. So the only other option is to make employers pay for health insurance. This is ultimately a problem in three ways:
  1. Small employers and self-employers (say, my mom) are either exempted (meaning employees have no health insurance) or have to struggle under the additional burden of outrageous insurance costs.
  2. Rather than eliminating the complete waste that is the HMO bureaucracy, this strategy simply enables them to run 'administrative fees' (the primary cost of skyrocketting health care costs) higher and higher.
  3. As #2 gets worse, employers find health care costs eating further and further into their bottom line.

This could develop in two ways. Either more and more employees are hired only part-time, making them ineligible for subsidized health insurance (just drawing out the conflict) or business groups realize it's in their own financial interests to join with liberal and labour organizations to lobby for single-payer health care and we see some real progress.

I'd like to be optimistic, and think that the latter will happen before too much of the former.

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