Shifting the health insurance burden
May 17, 2008
In Canada, GM and Ford executives and other business leaders laud single-payer health insurance; in the U.S. support on the CEO level is hard to find. Why?
By Morton Mintz
"Bureaucracy consumes 31 percent of U.S. health spending, versus 17 percent in Canada," according to David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, associate professors at Harvard Medical School and founders of Physicians for a National Health Program. "The difference translates into $350 billion frittered away annually here, where a million healthcare workers, as well as hundreds of thousands in the insurance industry, spend their days on useless paperwork," they wrote in the April 14 issue of The Nation.
Is it a wonder, then, that thanks to single-payer, the Big Three auto manufacturers produce a car in Canada for many hundreds of dollars less than they produce the identical car at home? DaimlerChrysler has supported single-payer. "A lot of people think a single-payer system is better," vice president Thomas Hadrych told The Washington Post in 2004. His counterparts at GM and Ford may agree but are mighty quiet about it. In the United States, that is. In Canada, however, GM and Ford executives love it, openly. In 2002, Michael Grimaldi, GM Canada's president and general manager, hailed it as "a strategic advantage for Canada."
For GM's and Ford's CEOs, here's a particularly compelling question for reporters—and shareholders—to raise: If single-payer is great for the auto industry in Canada, why isn't it great for the auto industry in the United States?