Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why Don't Corporations Demand a Public Option?

I have often wondered why corporations have not supported a public option for health care or preferably a single payer plan. Our auto makers have longed complained about costly health care as a major reason for their relatively high overhead compared to foreign competitors.  And one of the reasons GM and Chysler were willing to build factories in Canada was government run health care.

One would think corporations would love to get out from under any costly program; after all, they have a long history of privatizing benefits and socializing costs. Why would health insurance be any different?

The Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) has offered some tentative possibilities.  One of these is that executives are reluctant to ruffle business relations for fear of encouraging expropriators. As David Himmelstein, one of the founders of Physicians for a National Health Program, says, "If you can take away someone else's business--the insurance companies' business--you can take away mine."

Moreover, says the ISS, corporations prefer some level of insecurity for their workers. The knowledge that coverage can be lost leads to a more compliant work force.

The problem with these hypotheses is that they don't explain why there is not a more heated public debate, not on the merits of health care reform, but on how non-insurance corporations would benefit from a government role and why they don't make the case. Certain executives may not want single payer for whatever reason, but why are they not at least compelled to defend their decision? Why have Democrats who support health care reform not made a better case to corporate America? Never mind the humanitarian or fairness arguments; most corporations don't give a shit about that. They do care about saving money. 

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