Our Current Healthcare System Is a Bad Jobs Guarantee

One of the problems I have with Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg is that he uses Republican talking points to attack proposals that are popular, in general and with Democrats. Partying like it’s 1999 lost its appeal long ago. Case in point–Buttigieg’s willingness to argue that Medicare for All would cost healthcare insurance industry workers their jobs (boldface mine):

Here are the facts: A study released last year found that it’s quite possible the health-care sector would lose between 1.8 million and 2 million jobs if Medicare-for-all became the law of the land. Many — though not all — of those positions would come from such patient service areas as claims processing and such hospital administrative services as medical bill coding.

These are not, in many cases, jobs that help keep people healthy. They are, instead, holders of positions responsible for deciding on the validity of your insurance claim, or ensuring the medical provider gets the maximum amount of money for it. They are, in other words, the foot soldiers in a system that is causing active harm to millions of other Americansfinancially, emotionally and to their health. Despite the claim that we’ve got the best health-care system in the world, the typical American life span is falling. Polling shows 1 in 4 people with a chronic health condition reports a health insurer denied their claim and that people would, among other things, rather walk over hot coals, lose their luggage or suffer a flat tire than enroll in or review a health insurance plan.

Furthermore, Medicare-for-all doesn’t leave the people holding these endangered positions hanging. It’s all but certain, for starters, that some number of these people would transition into the new system to continue filling administrative needs. As for others, the Medicare-for-all legislation does offer downsized workers retraining, and that doesn’t even include Sanders’s initiative that would guarantee anyone who wanted it a job with the federal government paying at least $15 an hour. Moreover, there are jobs in the health-care industry that need filling now or in the future. Demand for home health-care aides to work with the elderly is surging, while other research points to a future increased demand for everything from doctors to nurse practitioners to lab technicians. Still other people would almost certainly pursue other positions — we live in a dynamic and ever-changing economy.

In other words, if your defense against Medicare-for-all is that you prefer our current system of a privatized, costly and highly inefficient jobs program that delivers inferior health-care outcomes, you should be up front about all that.

…While you are at it, you might want to also ponder other victims of economic and political change over the past several decades. Defense cutbacks after the Cold War ended led to major job losses in the defense industry, and many of those people ended up suffering long-term unemployment or underemployment.

But this issue hits home for Buttigieg for an obvious reason: the single largest employer in South Bend, Indiana (of which he is the mayor) is… a hospital system, Beacon Memorial. The South Bend Miracle is a hospital system (and Notre Dame University). While most healthcare jobs aren’t administrative (about eighteen percent are), that would still be a significant hit.

When cars and trains became the dominant mode of transportation, we didn’t worry about what would happen to farriers (“No matter what, my boy, people will always need horseshoes.”). If we’re going to have a jobs program, whether formal or de facto, let’s create the jobs we need in healthcare and other areas, not jobs designed, in part, to limit access to healthcare.

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6 Responses to Our Current Healthcare System Is a Bad Jobs Guarantee

  1. EvilOverwench says:

    A lot of those people whose job it is to fight for compensation from health insurance companies actually have healthcare backgrounds and degrees. They’re RNs or similar. Instead of being paper pushers, they could actually… provide patient care.

    Also, we as a society could use some of the massive savings from removing the parasites from our healthcare system to pay home health aides, LNAs, and nursing home staff decent living wages.

  2. beb says:

    Just to be a stickler for details there are still a lot of farriers in this country. People continue to own horses and need them shoes, or at least have their hooves trimmed. Likewise there are still buggy whip manufacturers. Sure they’re not the big business they used to be but there are still people showing or racing horses who need those items.

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  5. Dean Aigret says:

    Besides crippling the economy, it pots hundreds of thousands of support workers (medical insurance, medical coding, medical billing industries out of business). Billions in lost & reduced wages. This isn’t only a bad idea it’s potentially catastrophic. Painting entire industries negative is just uninformed. Medical coders/billers work to assist healthcare providers (AND patients) a service that effectively gets claims paid or written off. Rural healthcare will virtually cease under Medicaid for all. I wished it was “the magic pixie dust” to solve US Healthcare affordability, but social medicine fails in most countries. Dig into Canada as an example. Canadians come to the US for surgeries rather than risk waiting 6-9 months….but they do have effective price controls on prescription medicine. We NEED that!

    • RMO says:

      And the Earth isn’t a spheroid either, it’s shaped like a big taco shell! And phlogostin is what really causes fire!
      I don’t have to “dig into” Canada, I’ve lived here for nearly half a century. I have friends and relatives who live in the EU. The worst of the nationalized health care systems in the developed world is still miles better than the hellscape of US health care. I don’t even travel across the border that’s just a half hour from my house without buying supplemental health insurance and despite the extensive research I’ve done when buying it (helped by a friend who is a lawyer who specialized in the insurance field for years) I still run a risk of being surprised by some obscure loophole if anything happens.

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