Vail Valley Voices: Ironically, GOP may cause single-payer to happen |

Vail Valley Voices: Ironically, GOP may cause single-payer to happen

John Watson
Vail, CO, Colorado

Wild ironies are among the great flavors of life, and we are seeing one develop now.

If the Republican Party keeps cow-towing to the radical right and is successful in stopping what is, in reality, albeit not rhetorically, a moderate reform of the health insurance industry this year, it will almost certainly cause the creation of a full-blown single-payer system in the years ahead.

The employer-based health insurance system under which working people now live is about to crumble under its own weight.

Its days are numbered.

Forget the politics and the ideologues. Just do the math.

Unfortunately, it is deemed more important by the GOP to politically embarrass President Obama this year, calling health care his “Waterloo,” than it is to take an honest part in drafting a solution to save the employer-based system.

In taking this strict ideological stand, pretending that this is a “government takeover” of health care, which it is not, the Republican Party is ensuring a government takeover of health insurance.

Now that’s ironic.

Not only is the GOP hurting its core constituency, which is business, it is setting the stage for a government-run system in the future when the employer-based system fails.

Just look at your own company, any company, and the strain it is having providing employee health insurance.

Anyone who has ever run a business, which I have, can tell you that increasing health insurance costs, which are on an 8 percent per year romp for almost two decades now, are a sure killer to that which we all aspire — profits, wage increases, capital investment and perks … love those perks.

Right now, employers pay the lion’s share of the average $12,600 it costs per year for family health insurance.

This fact alone makes it astounding to me that business itself isn’t leading the charge for reform. Maybe they are afraid of the right-wingers, too.

Under normal business growth conditions, historically about 6 percent to 10 percent, a company cannot give you a raise when its health insurance rates are continually spiraling higher than the rate of inflation or company growth.

Health insurance costs, in fact, are the key reason middle class wages in America have been stagnant for 20 years.

And now we are getting to a breaking point. Already today, only 38 percent of small and mid-sized business can afford to provide health care to employees, down from 80 percent just nine years ago.

And when insurance costs rise to $15,000 or $20,000 per year, well, game over. At that point, most Americans won’t be covered by their employer and they will turn to their government and demand coverage.

And those people who refuse to face reform now will in effect have had created a single-payer system. How ironic.

The health insurance issue is about business and the ability of business to pay. Right now, government has an outside chance to save the employer-based system by controlling costs.

If government doesn’t, if we are again duped by the seasonal ideological scare tactics of liars like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, both business and employees will suffer.

This is about quality of life, family, ethics and even morality, not who wins a temporary ideological or political battle this year.

Business leaders had better tell the GOP to begin representing them again, not the nuts. Reduce health insurance costs now, or within a decade or so, we will have a single-payer government system.

Which, ironically, may be good for business.

John Watson, of Avon, is a former community newspaper owner and publisher.

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