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Monday, July 24, 2006

McIlheran Watch: Health Care Quickie

Patrick McIlheran asks an astute question today:
He retired at the age of 50, after working at the company since the age of 20, and expects [General Motors] then to pay for his health care for the rest of his life, say another 30 years. Under what rational system does a company make such a promise?
Problem is--you knew there'd be a "problem is" as soon as you saw "astute," didn't you--McIlheran declines to answer his question.

The answer to the question of what kind of system promotes promises like that is this one. The American system.

Employer-based health insurance developed as a by-product of the post-war years, as US companies sought to sweeten the deals they offered potential employees, to make sure they got good ones. This situation is uniquely American. It exists nowhere else in the world, and, as the US has faced down a festering health care crisis for well over a decade now, the rest of the (Western) world has more doctors, higher satisfaction rates, universal coverage, and far cheaper costs than we do. And now employers are shedding benefit packages left and right, including at GM. Where will health coverage come from when the employer-based system dries up, and there's no good universal system to take its place?

Chickens, roosts, etc.

McIlheran, as is his wont, blames the union and the whiny worker he cites in that piece. In the meantime, some of the rest of us are talking about potential solutions instead of snarky questions.

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