A Growing Chorus

I am about to get in trouble with some friends, so let me be as clear as possible from the start…

Even occasional readers of this space know that I am a market-oriented guy who has more than a fair share of cynicism about the government’s competence to lick envelopes, much less anything more complicated than that. 

My personal view is summed up well by the famous quote from economist Thomas Sowell.  ‘It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.’

Personally, I am not a fan nor a closet supporter of a single payer system.  In case there is any doubt, know that I mock people who drive a Prius and I unapologetically eat red meat and love it.  Hopefully my market bona fides are clearly established. 

That said, we’re going to spend a few posts exploring the idea of a single payer system. 

My liberal friends just got a little Chris Matthew’s tingle running up their leg and my conservative pals just wrenched with indigestion.  I get it.  Few policy ideas, especially for people who work in this industry, elicit a stronger emotional response than this one. 

But we better figure out how to talk about it because we’re about to have to.  The public is going to demand it. And that is where I want to go first.

A recent Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 people found that 60% of folks supported either ‘Medicare for all’ or a federally-funded health system that covers everyone (questions 69-83 relate to healthcare; see 81-82 specifically).  Granted, these two ‘options’ are from the Department of Redundancy Department, but we’ll consider this a form of statistical test-retest validation…the answers are consistent.

It is easy to argue with that data if you want, but remember, we can’t get 60% of Americans to agree on much of anything these days, so it has to mean something.  However, it wasn’t a poll that prompted me to spend some time here, but rather two cups of coffee.  Separately within the last two weeks I was chatting with personal friends, both of whom are business owners. Both said essentially the same thing: ‘I am pretty much conservative down the line on my policy positions, but single payer healthcare is the one liberal idea that I think we should consider.’

Those anecdotes, and others like them, give such a poll more credence because we business owners, people on the hook for writing the checks, might have political ideologies, but we are generally an extremely pragmatic bunch.  Like athletes ultimately judged by the scoreboard, decisions we make work or they don’t and we face the consequences.  When economically conservative, ‘trust-the-market-because-the-government-can-screw-up-a-bake-sale,’ business owners start pondering whether this is a better option, that is significant.  And these people thought Bernie was a nut job.

Speaking of which, there is another surprising group leaning more and more toward supporting a single payer system.  We’ll look at them next time.


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Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog three times a week about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.

Yes, I'd like to get Tim's blog.