The Idea of Single Payer Health Insurance

Well, health insurance really isn’t a major focus of this blog, although we do comment on it from time to time, and it certainly touches on both focuses of this blog, ERISA and insurance. Employer provided health insurance has always done well by me and mine, so I don’t really have a vested interest in this topic, but the always interesting Robert Frank has this to say today in pitching the merits of converting to a single payer health insurance system. Its well-written, persuasive and elegant, but I think he gives short shrift to two particular points in making his case, possibly because of limitations on the article’s length and the fact that one could obviously - and many have - address these two issues in great depth and across many pages. In the first instance, he is a little too glib in assuming that, given the economic benefits of the current system to many of those involved, the economic and political barriers to removing health insurers from the equation can be easily overcome. In the second instance, he is a little too quick to assure us that, since his son was happy with his medical care in Paris, we can all assume that the accessibility and availability of care enjoyed by those of us who are in fact currently insured will not suffer by a move to a government based single payer system. I have little doubt there is plenty more evidence out there on this last point one way or the other, and that it was the restrictions of newspaper writing that limited how much he could put in on that issue and caused him to instead rely on the shorthand of a personal anecdote. At the end of the day, however, these two points that he simply assumes are not barriers to a single payer system are, in fact, the real political and economic issues that confront any attempt to move to such a system.