POLICY: Jill Quadagno on “A critical national competitiveness issue”

The Oxford University Press in the US has its own blog. Who knew? As a Cambridge man I shudder at promoting anything from the dark blue side of the British divide, but Jill Quadagno (who’s book on why we don’t have national health insurance was reviewed by Jonathan Cohn and mentioned in this earlier THCB post) has written a piece on why she believes healthcare is a critical national competitiveness issue". I’m not sure I really buy that argument too much — the US is too strong in some industries and too weak in others for the 15% labor cost differential that health care makes to be too big a deal overall–although obviously it makes some difference at the margin as to where GM will put its next car plant. It does seem to me that their overall problem is that they stopped making great cars in 1969.

Cam69What is more important, I believe, is that a dollar spent on health care is a dollar not spent on education, alleviating homelessness, conserving energy, etc, etc (although apparently not one also not spent on invading Iraq, running a punitive war on drug users, or building more and more prisons) — so that we should be wondering why we are spending so much on health care, and wondering what we are getting for that spending.

And as I’ve said many times in THCB, the existence of uninsurance means that there is the opportunity for the health care system to force those who can’t afford it out of the system, and therefore enables the system as a whole to increase its costs without having to be concerned about the overall impact of this price effect. If there was some mechanism by which the extra costs were capped within the system, without the safety valve of uninsurance, life would be very different. And that’s why solving the uninsurance issue is also the solution to solving the cost issue.

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6 replies »

  1. Ah, socializing health care. Takes me back to the good old days – you know, the Truman Administration, when the American Medical Association could kill debate over universal health care by labeling it a communist plot to topple capitalism.
    Matt, I agree with your thesis about the uninsured in principle. But why didn’t it work for Medicare? Everyone over 65 is in Medicare, but costs are surging and the system is failing to address those costs.

  2. I miss my Camero too. A yellow 1972 Camero which had an upgraded body style over the ’69, but I forgot to name it and gave it away for a song in a trade-in. We gave away my wife’s red ’65 Mustang for practically nothin’ first.
    I read that the average Canadian was paying over $7,000 a year in taxes for their “FREE” health insurance. The American Auto makers are moving into Canada. I also thought Toyota was opening a plant in Michigan anyway. So now American cars will be from Canada and Toyotas will be assembled in the US like Hondas. In Detroit they reported that the “Cherry” will be introduced into the America market soon. The Cherry is from China and will be a high end product, like BMW, but will cost much less. The cost for an American auto worker is $34 an hour with benefits. The cost of a Chinese auto worker is only $100 a month.
    Let’s don’t even consider Socialising American health care for the health care problems of the Big 3 Automakers. They have tons of problems in their futures besides that. The American tax payers helped out Chrysler and now they are owned by the Germans anyway. Large Corporations like the Big 3 Automakers would love to dump their future retirement health care liabilities, to the UAW, onto the backs of the American taxpayer.

  3. Yup. Everyday I miss my beautiful 69 Camaro convertible, deep maroon with a 327 engine, called THE DOME, stolen in 2002…sniff, sniff

  4. There was a Canadian newspaper article circulating around the blogosphere a few weeks ago which told of Toyota’s decision to locate its next plant in Ontario in part because Canada had national health care and thus the company wouldn’t be on the hook for its employees health costs.

  5. At Oxford, we used to regard Cambridge as an upstart straggle of ugly brick buildings. 😉