Right now is an opportune time to push for single-payer nationalized health care in the United States. A number of American companies and franchisees--Papa John's, Denny's, and Applebee's among them--have been quite open about their displeasure with the cost of Obama's Affordable Care Act and their intentions to cut hours or fire employees when it fully goes into effect.
Sure, many of the complaining CEOs of these companies are greedy, right-wing Republicans, so we shouldn't be surprised, but perhaps we can afford them the benefit of the doubt on this issue. After all, why should U.S. companies pay for the health insurance of their employees? It's become expected that large and medium-size businesses provide health insurance to employees, and under the new law, they will be penalized if they don't.
But is the old system or the new Affordable Care Act the best we can do? Right now, the majority of Americans under age 65 receive their coverage through their employer. But employee health insurance is a huge expense, puts companies at a competitive disadvantage with overseas businesses, and isn't their obligation, according to the Constitution or any other official document.
To make matters worse, costs for employer-paid health insurance are rising rapidly. Annual premiums for family coverage have increased nearly 100 percent in the last decade. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, average premiums have risen to $5,615 for single coverage and $15,745 for family coverage.
Employer-sponsored health insurance sprang up in this country primarily during and after World War II when companies figured they could attract employees by offering generous benefits. But now that potential employees are plentiful and health-care costs have skyrocketed, the whole idea of employer-provided health insurance doesn't make sense for anybody.
Of course, employer-sponsored health care is unheard of in the rest of the developed world. There is no need for it where government provides health care and/or health insurance, which is the case in every other industrialized nation. Single-payer government health care is in effect here too. It's called Medicare but, with a few exceptions, only Americans over age 65 can use it.
What we have for the rest of us is a failed health-care system. In 2010, Kaiser reports, the U.S. spent more than $2.6 trillion on health care, more than ten times the amount in 1980. We spend far more on health care than any other country and with much worse results in the most important health categories, e.g. life expectancy and infant mortality. And prior to the Affordable Care Act going into full effect, more than 48 million Americans are lacking health insurance, and according to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study, 45,000 a year die because they don't have it.
If many corporations don't like ObamaCare, they have a great opportunity now to join forces with liberals and fight for single-payer, nationalized health insurance. They would make strange bedfellows indeed, but for the employers, single-payer would free them from the costly obligation to provide health insurance. It would push private insurance companies--who, because of their quest for ever-increasing profits, have driven up the cost of health care--out of the equation. The time to make this happen is now, before the major portions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect, before millions more Americans are forced to go into battle with private health insurance companies.
So, Papa John's and other companies, stop griping about ObamaCare. This is the time to join forces with liberal/progressive groups (and the majority of Americans, according to many polls) in pushing for single-payer, government-run health insurance. It's unlikely, but if you did, we could all benefit.