World Class Education Demands Single Payer Health Care

0507_education_sm.jpgToday happens to be National Teachers Day. If you haven’t thanked a teacher you know, either yours, your kid’s, or someone you happen to know, you should. Being an educator is often a difficult task -- rewarded not by untold monetary riches, but by knowing that the world has been made a better place through the education of our children.  It is in that spirit of improving society through the guarantee of a public good that we at Health Care for All Colorado are focused on achieving universal health care.

I am the product of a robust public education system. I went to a public elementary school that was ahead of most. I made it into a public residential high school that was one of the first of its kind in the nation and is considered one of the nation’s top 10 “elite” high schools. I even graduated Summa Cum Laude with an Electrical Engineering degree from a public land grant university. I absolutely would not be where I am or who I am today without guaranteed public education.

In this country, we consider public education to be a fundamental right for all of our children. We do this because we know it is good for society, the economy, our community, ourselves, and our families. It’s not cheap or free, but it is something we all pay for fairly through taxes (even if we don’t have kids of our own) because of the significant return on investment (ROI). Many other countries extend this principle all the way through college, even paying full tuition for anyone that wants to become a doctor.

That is fundamentally how we should also approach financing our health care system. Health care when we are sick should be a right and a public good. With everyone contributing, we can make wise financial decisions that both do the most good for the greatest number of people and generate a greater ROI than our current wasteful system.

But beyond the basic premise of health care as a human right, let’s look at how the current fragmented dysfunctional system impacts education itself and how a single payer universal health care system can create synergies with education. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but is based on real people that I know or have met over the last few years:

  • Increasing private insurance rates are eating into employee pay. With teachers at a typically lower pay scale, these rate increases hurt them more than most, leaving many to leave, or consider leaving, the profession.
  • Dealing with 20-30 children every day is challenging enough, but when one or more child has a medical issue that is not attended to due to a lack of health coverage, it compounds the difficulty of a teacher’s job.
  • Healthier children are better learners.
  • There are many qualified people who would like to teach, but are stuck in non-teaching jobs because of the better health benefits. A single payer system would allow them to pursue their dream of teaching without worrying about paying for health care.
  • Eliminating the burden of high-cost private insurance would allow school districts to pay teachers more.
  • Teachers often pay higher insurance rates because of their risk pool being predominantly child-bearing age females and older people (50s-60s), which would be eliminated in a single payer system as costs are pooled across the entire society.
  • Some teachers that are ready to retire early are stuck in their jobs because of the employer-sponsored health benefits. Universal health care would allow them to retire with dignity and not become frustrated or distressed.
  • Teaching is a calling, like medicine, but if we don’t support the profession with adequate benefits, we will continue to lose gifted educators.
  • The high cost of education for the medical profession leads many into specialized fields so that student debt can be paid off, leaving a shortage of primary care providers. Single payer would guarantee better payments to primary care providers and reduce the burden of medical school costs, shifting the balance of providers back to primary care where it is most needed.

If you believe in the benefits of public education, then you should also consider how publicly financing a universal health care system can create similar benefits for all of us.

Please support our goal to create a publicly-financed health care system for everybody in Colorado by endorsing our Colorado ballot initiative #12, "Health Care as a Human Right." We will soon be collecting signatures to try and make it on the ballot in 2014 for the people to decide.

Also, if you would like to attend a fun little upcoming fundraiser, check out this event at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret on May 21st. Tickets are only $30 and all proceeds go to Health Care for All Colorado.

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  • Nathan Wilkes
    commented 2013-05-08 11:37:33 -0600
    Under single payer health care, you actually have full choice of ALL providers in a predominantly private delivery system. This gives people the MOST choice possible, since a private insurance based system limits you to a fixed provider network. It also puts competition and market forces where it belongs — across providers — instead of the “race to the bottom” scenario we have today with irrelevant middleman insurers trying to avoid paying for claims or dropping providers that provide too much appropriate care.

    This is an argument about FINANCING health care to maximize the investment of all health care dollars. There is no point to private choice of private insurers, because they play no role in the actual delivery of health care. All of their innovations are designed to maximize their profits by minimizing claims payments and attracting only the healthiest enrollees, and we pay an extra 30% for the privilege of getting screwed.

    There is a similar argument in education that a lot of the best performing schools are that way not because of competition/choice, but because they naturally attract the students that were better performers to begin with. I went to those kinds of schools as a child, as do my children today.

    There is an ideological movement to privatize more public education and more public health care financing (like Medicare), but all reliable studies show that outcomes are actually worse when these areas of public good are privatized.
  • Elisabeth Smith
    commented 2013-05-08 11:07:09 -0600
    What happens to private choice? Choice in education has enhanced outcomes, particularly with schools like Peak to Peak (among top 100 high schools in the U.S.).