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November 6, 2015

Medicare for all is also good for business

Ralph Nader

Just when the prospects for single-payer or full Medicare for everyone, with free
choice of doctors and hospitals, appear to be going nowhere, from  Pennsylvania’s
Lehigh Valley comes a stirring that could go national and make single-payer a reality.

Throwing down the gauntlet on the grounds of efficiency and humanness,
businessman Richard Master, CEO of MCS Industries Inc., the nation’s leading
supplier of wall and poster frames, is bent on arousing the nation’s business leaders
to back single-payer – the efficient full Medicare for all – solution.

The woefully wasteful and profiteering health care industries have blocked majority
opinion, and a majority of physicians and nurses, to keep the present sky-high costly
system in place, that receives huge taxpayer subsidies without any reasonable, and
meaningful, price restraints. Health care companies exploit the complexities of
Obamacare, which is powerless to restrain price spirals (note the staggering rise in
recent prices of certain drugs). But the health care industry cannot defeat an
organized business community fed up with uncontrollable cost burdens and the
further competitive disadvantages they experience with western European countries,
Japan or Canada – countries that have single-payer systems at half the per capita
costs or less.
Mr. Master’s first step is now complete. He has produced a short movie called “Fix It:
Healthcare at the Tipping Point” which makes a powerful business case for replacing
the current wasteful multi-payer system with a single payer one. He traveled with his
award-winning filmmakers to Canada, where he interviewed doctors, nurses and
conservative business people. The latter were aghast over why their fellow
conservatives in the U.S. are not seeing the light.
One industrialist, Dann Konkin, told the filmmakers that he embraces the Canadian
healthcare system because it reduces his company’s costs. The film quotes Michael
Grimaldi, former president of General Motors of Canada, as declaring that the
Canadian healthcare system “significantly reduces total labor costs for automobile
manufacturing firms.” His predecessor, Jack Smith, who went on to head the entire
General Motors, said much the same.
Master and his crew then traveled to Taiwan, which has free choice of physician and
hospital, and spends just 1.6 percent of its total operating health care budget on
administration. Compare that figure with what Master estimates to be over 30 percent
in the United States, with every doctor on average paying $80,000 a year on such
administration costs.
It is always fascinating to learn what the “aha” moment is for leaders of reform
movements. With Master it was a trip to Santiago, Chile to meet the family of his son’s
fiancé. They went to a pharmacy to buy their usual brand of inhaler, which they
purchased for $15. Back home in Easton, PA, the same brand cost between $120 and
$140. Then Master had to buy his blood pressure medicine which he did for $4. Back
in the U.S. it was $40. That’s when Master turned to his family and said, “we have to
do something about this.”
Master has his numbers down. This year, health care will exceed the $3 trillion level in
the U.S. People are anxious and worried about whether they are covered, what their
co-pays, deductibles and exclusions will be or what they qualify for under the health
industry fine-print contract, or the Obamacare criteria. Master believes that lifting the
burgeoning burden and paperwork by enacting a system with public insurance and
private delivery of health care will make our economy more efficient and our business
more expansive.
His own company just got a 35 percent initial premium increase this year. That
amounts, he says, to be $1.50 to $2.00 an hour for a production or warehouse worker
in his firm.
The fifty members of the House of Representatives who have signed on to H.R. 676
legislation for single-payer, full Medicare for all will probably be delighted hear about
Richard Master’s film and his plans to spark a movement through our nation’s small
and big businesses. He is coming to Capitol Hill soon, and he will be on the mass
media– starting with the business cable news that is always looking for new energy
from the private sector won’t be able to resist his compelling arguments.
It is interesting to see how Master meticulously argues his case. Spending on health
care is at 18 percent of GDP, he says, while the average in other industrialized
countries is below ten percent. “We can’t compete,” he adds, “and if we go to 20
percent or 25 percent, we are going to have to give up on education and on any work
we are doing on our infrastructure.” He thinks “of this painting by Goya – Saturn
Devouring His Son. The healthcare system is essentially devouring the rest of the
economy whole.”
I asked Master why the business community, surely knowing what he knows about the
costs, did not unfurled the single-payer flag long ago. He replied that they are
misinformed by legions of insurance agents and others in the industry who populate
chambers of commerce everywhere. He knows that single-payer actually strengthens
the free, competitive market of delivering health care, far more than the insurance
companies and restrictive networks do (Listen to my interview with Mr. Master at www.
There is another reason businesses haven’t championed this issue. Businesses do
not like to take on other sectors of business or changes that present an existential
peril to the latter. Single-payer, as Medicare for the elderly did in the mid-Sixties,
replaces the health insurance companies. That is too much conflict for

The next step for this historic advance is for Mr. Master to take his film to business
audiences around the nation. I suggested that Mr. Master also organize a major
conference of representatives of all business sectors in Washington, D.C. to make the
definitive statement that rational health care by full Medicare for all is about to be put
on the national policy agenda. What issue could more enliven more a presidential
election year?
Master’s film can be found at