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Welcome, Comrade Patient

Welcome, Comrade Patient

By Kim Bellard, December 14, 2017


Capitalism is in big trouble, even in the U.S. and especially among millennials.  So reports Fast Company and The New York Times.  Even capitalism-friendly publications like The Wall Street Journaland Bloomberg warn about it. 

The oft-cited reasons include problems like increasing income/wealthy inequity and dimmer outlook for good jobs, but I have to wonder how much of a role our health care system plays in these kinds of attitudes.


The WSJ also showed a 2016 Gallop poll in which capitalism and socialism were rated equally favorably (both just over 50%) by respondents ages 18 - 29, which was a stark contrast to every other age group (support for capitalism goes up by age, while support for socialism declines).  Similarly, a 2017 WSJ/NBC News survey found that the 18-29 age group was much more likely to say the government should do more to help people, again in contrast to other age groups. 

In some ways, the U.S. health care system is a model of capitalism.  Lots of people are making lots of money, whether they be stockholders in health companiesdoctors and health care executives, or even supposedly non-profit parts of the system. 

The problem is, though, unless you are one of the lucky ones doing well with our current system -- and maybe even then -- you're probably not too happy with it. 

Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders made unexpected headway in his race to be the Democratic candidate for President despite -- or perhaps because of -- his socialist leanings.  One of his key planks was for Medicare for all, an idea that has seen a strong resurgence generally.  Even more popular is the (admittedly vague) push for single payor.

Harvard-Harris poll found that 52% of Americans supported a single payor system, with even 35% of Republicans supporting.  Young people were most supportive.   Perhaps most astonishing is that a Merritt-Hawkins survey found that 56% of physicians now support single payor, a sharp reversal from prior surveys.  42% voiced strong support.

Right now, millennials are not as engaged in health care as older age groups because they tend to need it less.  They don't have as many health problems and don't see health professionals as often.  That's why getting them to buy health insurance is a constant struggle, even when they have the lowest premiums.   

But as this radicalized generation, who are already frustrated with economic inequity and the prospects for their future, realize how much they will have to pay for older Americans' health needs as well as for their own, push will eventually come to shove. 


We have some hard thinking to do about how we finance health care, and for whom.  We have some hard thinking about what the role of profit, competition, and capitalism should be in our health care system.  We have some hard thinking to do about why our health care system is not serving more of us better.

It may not be socialized medicine.  It may not be single payor.  It may not even be Medicare-for-all.  But it for sure will not be what we have now. 


This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting


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